AP journalist abducted in Iraq’s Diyala province

New York, August 8, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the abduction last month of an Associated Press journalist by masked gunmen in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala. 

On July 28, gunmen kidnapped Talal Mohammed, 40, a reporter and photographer for The Associated Press, and an unnamed friend near Diyala province’s capital of Baqubah, the AP reported. The two men were heading toward Baghdad, southwest of Baqubah, on a public bus when they were stopped by the gunmen at an illegal checkpoint, according to the news agency. Mohammed’s friend was later released.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety of our colleague Talal Mohammed and call on those holding him to release him at once,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

The Associated Press reported that Mohammed’s friend, who wished to remain anonymous, provided the journalist’s family with the information after his release. He said they had been taken to a farm and kept apart, but heard the gunmen interrogating and beating Mohammed in an adjacent room, according to the AP.

The reasons behind Mohammed’s abduction remained unclear, the AP said. The news organization said it did not release information of the kidnapping earlier because “it had been in touch with U.S. military authorities in the region in the hope of finding Mohammed.”

At least 49 other journalists have been abducted in Iraq since 2004, according to CPJ research. Karim Manhal, abducted on March 17; Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed, abducted on February 1, 2006; and Bilal Taleb Abdelrahman al-Obeidi, abducted on August 14, 2006, remain missing.