Female Iraqi journalist freed after week in captivity

Outspoken Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi, who was kidnapped by gunmen about a week ago, has been freed, security officials and her sister told CNN on Tuesday.

"Thank God, my sister, Afrah, has been freed, and now she is with us at home," Nibras al-Qaisi told CNN.
Circumstances of the freeing of the journalist were not immediately clear.

Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi is a freelance journalist whose articles have appeared on several widely read news websites, including the London-based Asharq al-Awsat pan-Arab news site.

She also worked as an employee in the country's Ministry of Culture.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said he called her to make sure al-Qaisi, a critic of rampant corruption, is doing well.

On December 26, gunmen stormed her home in the capital of Baghdad.

The gunmen were dressed in civilian clothes and arrived in three pickups at the home about 10 p.m. local time on Monday night, officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

The attackers stole cash, gold, a car and other possessions before they took her to an unknown location.
Abadi ordered security agencies to open an investigation into the case, calling for the prosecution of those responsible for the "intimidation of journalists."

The organization Reporters Without Borders says Iraq is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.

Kidnapped Iraqi journalist has been released

BAGHDAD –  The family of an Iraqi female journalist kidnapped in Baghdad last week says she has been released.

Nibras Shawqi al-Qaisi told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her sister, Afrah, was released the night before, without providing further details.

Gunmen who said they were members of the security forces asked to search Afrah's house last Monday before abducting her. They also took gold, money, phones, laptops and her car.

The veteran journalist, who is also an employee of the Culture Ministry, is a prominent critic of Iraq's endemic corruption.

War-torn Iraq is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, who have been frequently targeted by militant groups since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Female Iraqi Journalist Freed after Abduction in Iraq

“Thank God, I’m fine,” she told the local NRT satellite TV station late Tuesday, shortly after her release.

“They just interrogated me and thank God they found me not guilty,” Shawqi added, without elaborating.

The reporter’s sister, Nibras, and the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) also confirmed on Tuesday that she had been freed.

On December 26, 2016, eight armed men dressed in plain clothes burst into the journalist’s home in Baghdad’s southern neighborhood of al-Saidiya.

“They tied up her son and stole mobile phones, computers and cash before kidnapping Afrah and fleeing,” Ziad al-Ajili, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, said at the time.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi strongly condemned the 43-year-oldf journalist’s kidnapping, and ordered police to do their utmost to find her and track down the abductors.

Qaisi works for London-based and Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in addition to a number of news websites, including Aklaam.

She is also an employee of the Culture Ministry
She published an article prior to her publication, leveling strident criticism against armed groups that “act with impunity” in Iraq.

It was not known if she pointed to the affiliation of those armed groups.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has placed Iraq among the deadliest countries in the world for journalists and media staff.

Foreign-backed terror groups, particularly Daesh militant outfit, mostly target civilian centers across the violence-wracked Arab country, particularly in Baghdad.

Seven journalists lost their lives in Iraq in 2016, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has recently announced, Press TV reported.

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