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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Snatched Iraqi minister is freed
Iraqi security forces guard a bridge in Baghdad
Iraqi officials are reviewing their Baghdad security clampdown
Iraq's deputy electricity minister and bodyguards kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad have been released, Iraqi officials have said.

The guards managed to free themselves and then the deputy minister, Raad al-Harith, the officials said.

Earlier reports said Mr al-Harith was pulled from his car and captured along with some 19 bodyguards.

But interior ministry sources told Reuters that Mr al-Harith was freed 12 hours later with just seven bodyguards.

The deputy himself declined to make any statement and his officials gave no indication of who they thought might be behind the abduction.

He was travelling through the Shia area of Talbiyah in eastern Baghdad when his convoy was ambushed at about 0730 (0330 GMT) on Tuesday.

One witness, Ahmed Hassan, told Reuters: "We were standing in the street when civilian cars came and stopped the other cars. Gunmen came out and kidnapped them."

Security review

Security forces could give little detail, but one report suggested the deputy minister's bodyguards did not resist because they believed the ambush was an official operation.

It is the second high-profile abduction in four days. On Saturday female Sunni MP Taiseer Najah al-Mashhadani and seven guards were kidnapped in a northern district bordering the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City and are still missing.

One of more than 100 injured in Baghdad blast on Saturday
The kidnapping follows a major bombing on Saturday
The Sunni bloc that Ms Mashhadani belongs to, the National Concord Front, has boycotted the Iraqi parliament in protest at the abduction.

The deputy minister's kidnapping comes days after Iraqi officials announced a review of their three-week-old security plan for Baghdad after a bomb on Saturday killed at least 66 people.

The massive explosion ripped through a busy market in Sadr City in the worst incident in the capital for weeks.

The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the recent killing of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had had no impact on the scale of the violence.

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