Top health ministry official kidnapped in Iraq

Gunmen kidnapped Iraq's deputy health minister from his home in northern Baghdad on Sunday, an Iraqi army officer and ministry official said. The gunmen arrived in seven vehicles to grab Ammar al-Saffar, a Shiite, from his home near the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah, said the army officer. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. Al-Saffar is one of several deputies to Health Minister Ali al-Shamari. The kidnapped official is a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Dawa Party and the first senior official from the ministry to be kidnapped, said Hakem al-Zamily a fellow deputy health minister. Al-Saffar was snatched nearly a week after dozens of suspected Shiite militia gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped scores of people from a Ministry of Higher Education office in central Baghdad. That ministry is predominantly Sunni.