3 French Citizens Missing in Iraq
Three French nationals and one Iraqi working with a French Christian charity in Iraq have been missing since Monday, the group announced Friday.
The four men with SOS Chretiens d'Orient (Christians of the Middle East) went missing near the French embassy in Baghdad, the organization's director Benjamin Blanchard told a news conference in Paris.
No ransom demand has been received as yet and no group has claimed responsibility for their disappearance, he was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.
SOS Chretiens d'Orient is principally active in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil.
The missing workers were in Baghdad "to renew their visas and register the association with Iraqi authorities," Blanchard said.
They were also due to inspect the group's activities in the city, including the opening of a new school.
They left their hotel by car for a meeting "which posed no problem," Blanchard said, adding that French and Iraqi authorities were working together to try locate them.
However they did not return and the charity sought in vain to contact them on Tuesday before contacting the French authorities early Wednesday.
The charity's director described the men as "experienced staff members who have been working with us for years" and who had "perfect knowledge of conflict zones".
He declined to give the men's identities.
The French foreign ministry and the French embassy in Iraq refused to comment on their disappearance, AFP said.
"The French and Iraqi authorities are coordinating today on the inquiry and to retrace their steps," said Blanchard, stressing that he was in "close contact" with the worried families.
Baghdad has been gripped by demonstrations for several months.