German woman kidnapped in Baghdad

German woman kidnapped in Baghdad
Hella Mewis, who ran arts programmes in the Iraqi capital, was "kidnapped" on Monday as police officers watched, a security source said.
2 min read
Mewis had been worried for her safety after the killing of scholar Hisham al-Hashimi [Getty]
A German national was kidnapped late on Monday, outside her office in central Baghdad, a security source and a friend told AFP.

Hella Mewis, who ran arts programmes at the Iraqi art collective Tarkib, had left her office and was "riding her bicycle when two cars, one of them a white pickup truck used by some security forces, were seen kidnapping her", the security source said.

Police officers at the local station witnessed the kidnapping but did not intervene, the source added.

Mewis's phone was unreachable on Monday and the German embassy in Baghdad had no immediate comment. 

A friend of the German national told AFP she had been worried following the killing of Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar who had been supportive of anti-government protests last year. 

"I spoke to her (Mewis) last week and she was really involved in the protests too, so she was nervous after the assassination," said the friend Dhikra Sarsam. 

Widespread demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and Iraq's Shia-majority south last year, railing against a government seen as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.

Around 550 people died in protest-related violence, including two dozen activists who were shot dead by unidentified men, usually on motorcycles.

Dozens more were kidnapped, some of whom were later released near their homes. The whereabouts of others remain unknown.

Amnesty International has slammed the incidents as "a growing lethal campaign of harassment, intimidation, abductions and deliberate killings of activists and protesters".

This year has seen a worrying spike in abductions of foreigners, who had not been targeted in several years.  

On New Year's Eve, two French freelance journalists were taken hostage for 36 hours and three French NGO workers were held for two months. 

In both cases, neither the kidnappers nor the conditions of their releases were revealed.

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