Iraqi forces free kidnapped German woman

Hella Mewis was abducted in Baghdad on Monday night

An undated photo shows Hella Mewis, a German resident of Baghdad, riding a boat on the Tigris River. AP Photo
An undated photo shows Hella Mewis, a German resident of Baghdad, riding a boat on the Tigris River. AP Photo

Iraqi security forces have freed a German woman who was abducted in Baghdad this week, a spokesman said on Friday.

Hella Mewis, a long-term resident of the Iraqi capital, went missing on Monday night after she left her office in central Baghdad.

Her rescue was announced in a brief statement on Twitter by the armed forces spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool. He did not provide further details.

A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Associated Press that Ms Mewis was freed at 6.25am in a raid by security forces on a location outside Baghdad, based on information they obtained regarding her whereabouts.

A statement by the Interior Ministry said Ms Mewis was freed in the Al Rusafa area of Baghdad "72 hours after she was kidnapped".

A member of the Iraq's Human Rights Commission, Ali Al Bayati told The National that the operation was carried out by the Al Soqoor Intelligence Cell and the Tactical Force of the Intelligence Agency at the interior ministry.

Ms Mewis was reported missing by friends and activists on Tuesday. Security officials said she was kidnapped outside the Baghdad arts centre where she worked.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Ms Mewis was brought to the German Embassy in Baghdad in the afternoon. He thanked the Iraqi government and security authorities “who supported us comprehensively during this time and contributed decisively to this case ending well”.

Earlier in the week Mr Maas said his ministry set up a task force to deal with her disappearance.

There was no claim of responsibility and officials did not say who was behind the kidnapping, but Hassan Wahab, an activist and member of the Amal Association human rights group, told The National the area Ms Mewis was released from was known to be the “largest district in Baghdad that contains all kinds of armed factions and militias”.

Ms Mewis has lived in Baghdad for seven years and runs an arts programme for young Iraqis. She was often seen cycling along the bustling Karrada Street, an unusual sight in Baghdad where foreigners are often cautious of the unpredictable security situation.

She is a known supporter of the mass anti-government protests that began last October and her abduction prompted alarm among Iraqi activists and other foreigners living in the country. It came two weeks after the killing of prominent Iraqi researcher and commentator Husham Al Hashimi by unknown gunmen.

Updated: July 24, 2020 03:44 PM

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