Three members of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's family have been kidnapped by gunmen.

A first cousin of the Prime Minister, the cousin's wife and another family member were seized from their home in Baghdad.

Spokesman Georges Sada has given no further details on the circumstances of their abduction.

But a police source said there had been a short gun battle at the home in a southwestern district of the capital before the people were seized.

Sada said no demands had so far been made by the kidnappers.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped by gangs in a wave of abductions in recent months, with more wealthy individuals such as doctors and businessmen most regularly targeted.

Most are released after the payment of a ransom.

Over the same period, scores of foreigners have been seized, with many of them handed over to Islamic militant groups who have threatened to kill them if demands are not met.

More than 35 foreign hostages have been killed.
8O If correct this will make the situation interesting
Yet more evidence - as if it were needed - that Iraq is not the jolly liberated home of the free that our elected masters would have us believe. If the PMs relatives aren't safe then no-one is. Hence the Americans rather touching and naive belief that post the January elections the Iraqis will be able to look after themselves is looking ever more unlikely. I say 5 to 10 years more before local forces can even start to attempt to keep a lid on things.

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