Baghdad, Iraq Gunmen dressed in military fatigues burst into the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company Monday, seizing 26 people in a daylight raid in a mostly Shiite area of the capital.
Also Monday, at least 30 people were killed or found dead in political or sectarian violence across the country, police said. They included four Iraqi soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in northern Iraq, the first such attack in the Kurdish-ruled province of Dahuk.
The kidnappings occurred around noon when 15 four-wheel drive vehicles carrying the gunmen pulled into the main shopping area of Karradah, an upscale residential district where several Shiite politicians live.
One group entered a mobile phone shop, the other went to the next door office of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said. The gunmen rounded up 15 staff and customers from the shop and 11 from the chamber office and drove away with them, Mahmoud said.
All the victims were believed to be Iraqis. The Iraqi-American Chamber is an independent organization not affiliated with the U.S. government and maintains branches throughout Iraq and in Amman, Jordan.
The Interior Ministry denied that the kidnappers were police - despite the uniforms - and blamed the attack on "terrorists," Iraqi state television reported.
The raid occurred in the same neighborhood as the abduction two weeks ago of about 30 people, including the Iraqi National Olympic Committee chairman, during a meeting of sports officials.
As of Monday, at least 2,577 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
A few have been released; those still missing include the committee chairman, Ahmed al-Hijiya. The gunmen who seized the sports officials also wore fatigues and used the same kind of four-wheeled drive vehicles as the kidnappers Monday.
Also Monday, gunmen wearing fatigues blocked the car of a millionaire businessman in a Baghdad neighborhood and seized him and his two sons, leaving the man's car in the street, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majeed said.
U.S. officials estimate an average of 30-40 people are kidnapped each day in Iraq, although the real figure may be higher because few families contact the police. Security officials believe most of the ransoms end up in the hands of insurgent and militia groups.
On Monday, the government said that since February, 30,359 families - or about 182,000 people - had fled their homes due to sectarian violence and intimidation. That represented an increase of about 20,000 people from the number reported July 20.