Iraqi Olympic soccer player kidnapped in Baghdad

Updated: September 4, 2006, 2:09 AM ET
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A popular Iraqi soccer player who was a member of the country's Olympic team has been kidnapped in Baghdad, police said.

Ghanim Ghudayer, 22, considered one of the best players in Baghdad's Air Force Club, was kidnapped on Sunday evening by unknown assailants in the al-Amil neighborhood where he lives in the western part of the capital, police 1st Lt. Mutaz Salahiddin said.

Some of the kidnappers were dressed in military uniform, Salahiddin said.

Samir Kadhim, head of the Air Force Club, said Ghudayer had been preparing to go to a training session when he was intercepted by the assailants in two vehicles.

Iraqi sports officials and athletes have frequently faced threats, kidnappings and assassination attempts.

In July, Iraq's national soccer coach, Akram Ahmed Salman, resigned after receiving death threats against him and his family.

Earlier that month, unknown gunmen kidnapped the chairman of Iraq's National Olympic Committee and at least 30 other officials, including the presidents of the taekwondo and boxing federations, in a brazen daylight raid on a sports conference in the heart of Baghdad.

The abduction came after Iraq's national wrestling coach, a Sunni, was killed in a Shiite district of Baghdad.

Soccer is popular in Iraq, where the national team's successes in the past three years have provided a joyous distraction from the daily violence.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press