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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Mass abduction at Baghdad factory
Gunmen have abducted at least 80 Iraqi factory workers from a fleet of buses just north of Baghdad, officials say.

The abduction took place at a state-owned factory complex at Taji where dozens of insurgents commandeered buses taking employees home after work.

A source quoted by Reuters news agency said the number of those kidnapped was at least 100 and possibly many more.

It is the latest of a series of mass abductions of workers in Iraq, many of whom have been ransomed or killed.

In other developments on Wednesday:

  • The US marines were set to announce murder and other charges against seven marines and a navy sailor over the killing of an Iraqi civilian in April, US officials said

  • One of the main lawyers defending former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Khamis al-Obeidi, is abducted from his home and shot dead

  • Two people are killed and six wounded when a car bomb explodes in a crowded Baghdad market

  • Iraqi and US forces announce the capture of Noori Abu Hayder al-Oqabi, described as a high-level insurgent and leader of a Baghdad "assassination cell"

  • Insurgents in Iraq announce their intention to kill four Russian diplomats being held hostage, according to an internet posting

Forced out of cars

In Wednesday's mass abduction, the workers were taken from two factories - the Nasr and Hattin facilities - at the Taji industrial complex, where about 4,000 people worked.

Scene of a car bombing in Baghdad
A marketplace blast in Baghdad killed at least two people

The area is predominantly Sunni Arab, but most of the workers at the two factories were thought to be Shias, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Kamel Mohammed, an engineer working at the plant, told AP that he saw two of the plant's buses and a minibus intercepted by gunmen in three cars.

The factory vehicles transport workers back to Shia neighbourhoods of Baghdad, he said.

The gunmen also forced other workers leaving the plant in their own cars to get out and into the buses, he added.

What happened to the passengers next is unclear, though there were reports that those on one of the hijacked vehicles resisted the hijackers and disarmed them, says the BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad.

The factories were reportedly used to manufacture armaments under Saddam Hussein, but have now been converted to make products for civilian use.

Taji also hosts a major military base, that was once used by Iraq's armed forces and is now home to US troops.

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