Hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi troops conducted pre-dawn raids in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on Wednesday, as the search for five, kidnapped Britons intensified.
A top Iraqi official said authorities are working on the assumption that the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is responsible for the abductions because the kidnappers fled to an area that is controlled by the militia
The men were seized from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry office by about 40 heavily armed men wearing police uniforms during daylight hours on Tuesday. The group then drove toward Sadr City in a convoy of 19, four-wheel-drive vehicles, Iraqi officials said.
U.S. troops arrested five suspected militants and one suspected leader of a militant cell during the Sadr City raids, but military officials did not connect them to the kidnappings.
Soon after the abduction, Iraqi forces established a special battalion of Iraqi soldiers and police to search for the men, said an Iraqi army spokesman.
"We are conducting search operations near the site where the abduction took place," he said. "Maybe today or in the coming few days, we will find them with the help of secret intelligence."
Officials with the British Embassy are holding ongoing talks with Iraqi officials as the investigation into the kidnappings proceeds. A senior Iraqi official said the radical Shiite Mahdi Army militia was suspected in the attack.
A roadside bomb that apparently targeted a passing police patrol in Sadr City, missed and killed one civilian and wounded four others, police said.
Compiled from NPR and The Associated Press reports.