Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Dangers of Being Shi'i on Haifa St.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The body of a well-known Shiite boxer was found Friday in central Baghdad near the dangerous street where he was kidnapped earlier this week, police said.

Hassan Hadi, 42, had been hanged, police said.

The father of two was en route Monday to a spare parts store that he owns when the attackers intercepted his car and abducted him, police said.

Police said Hadi was seized while traveling on Haifa Street, a Sunni insurgent stronghold on the west bank of the Tigris River about a mile north of the Green Zone, site of the U.S. and British embassies as well as the Iraqi government headquarters.

The area was the scene of fierce clashes between insurgents and U.S.-Iraqi forces just two days later.

An official with the Youth and Sports Ministry said no ransom had been demanded and stressed that Hadi was not linked with any political party.

Hadi fought for al-Zawraa, Iraq's biggest sports club.

Athletes and sports officials have increasingly become targets of threats, kidnappings and assassination attempts, either as part of retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis, or for ransom.

In December, gunmen abducted the Sunni head of one of Iraq's leading soccer clubs.

A blind Iraqi athlete and Paralympics coach also were kidnapped last year but were released unharmed after sports officials said their abductors determined neither was linked to the Sunni insurgency.

An Iraqi international soccer referee also was abducted in the fall as he left the soccer association's offices. The kidnappers reportedly demanded a $200,000 ransom.

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