There has not yet been a formal statement from the Iraqi government or U.S. officials, but eyewitness reports say that a small number of Westerners were training ministry officials on the use of computers when the kidnappers hustled them away.
There are hundreds of foreign advisors working in various capacities for the Iraqi government. Many confine themselves to the Green Zone, the highly fortified Baghdad enclave that houses the U.S. embassy and many government offices. The computer experts were in a ministry building outside, in the Red Zone, as the rest of Baghdad is known.
Although no group has as yet claimed responsibility, first suspicion is bound to fall on the Mahdi Army, the dreaded Shi'ite militia; the snatch bore some of the group's hallmarks, including the use of police vehicles and uniforms. Iraq's minority Sunnis routinely complain that the Iraqi police force often acts as a front for Shi'ite militias, especially the Mahdi Army.
Reports of men in police uniform kidnapping or killing Sunnis are commonplace. The most spectacular of these attacks occurred last November, when scores of men in police commando uniforms and driving vehicles with police markings stormed into an office of the Ministry of Higher Education, kidnapping 150 people. Most were subsequently released, and the operation was attributed to a Mahdi Army warlord named Abu Dera'a. But many Iraqis believe the police was complicit in the kidnapping.
Over 200 foreigners and possibly tens of thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the fall of Saddam Hussein. But it is unusual for the Mahdi Army to kidnap foreigners that tends to be the work of Sunni terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. And Shi'ite militias typically don't target ministries run by their fellow-sectarians. The Ministry of Higher Educaton was run by a Sunni. But the Finance Minister is a prominent Shi'ite, Bayan Jabr Solagh. What is more, he's the former Interior Minister under whose watch the Iraqi police was thoroughly infiltrated by Shi'ite militias.