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Gunmen stormed the Stars and Stripes printing press in Baghdad on Thursday, kidnapping 22 Iraqi workers before letting six go free later in the afternoon, officials of the private Iraqi company that prints the paper said.

Roughly 30 armed men — about half dressed in Iraqi police uniforms and about half in business suits — pulled up to the printing plant around 1 p.m. in Land Cruisers, then entered the facility and began shooting at equipment and in the air, the contractors said.

The men rounded up the printers and press maintainers working at the time, then drove them off in the vehicles, the contractors said.

Ibrihim Zayer, the owner of the printing facility, said the attack was not politically motivated or the act of terrorists targeting the newspaper. He attributed the action to an ongoing business dispute.

The printing and delivery company contracted by Stripes has been the victim of violence before. At least two contract drivers have been killed while on deliveries, one near Ramadi and one near Balad.

The Baghdad facility also prints several Iraqi newspapers.

Stars and Stripes began printing in Baghdad in October 2003. Between papers printed at the Baghdad facility and those in other countries, some 50,000 copies of the paper are distributed on bases throughout Iraq each day.

Stars and Stripes officials said they were looking into alternative printing arrangements, if necessary, so the paper could be distributed as usual in Iraq. It was not immediately known whether Friday’s paper would be available.


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