Two More Kidnappings In Iraq

Iraqi soldiers investigate the wreckage of an Iraqi police truck at the scene of a suicide bomber's attack, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, in front of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. A suicide car bomber targeted a police patrol and killed at least three Iraqis Monday near the Green Zone housing the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government.
Two more foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, according to the German government, which says two young men from Leipzig were abducted from two cars in northern Iraq.

The two men, whose names have not been made public, work at a detergent plant about 155 miles north of Baghdad, in Beiji, the same city where Brazilian engineer Joao Jose Vasconcelos Jr. – a power station worker – was kidnapped on January 19th. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Another German citizen, aid worker and archeology enthusiast Susanne Osthoff, was kidnapped last November. She was freed on Dec. 18.

Confirmation of the latest kidnappings came as Baghdad awaited Tuesday's scheduled resumption of the trial of Saddam Hussein – this time with a new judge in charge, and another judge removed from the five-member panel trying the former Iraqi president.

At midday, however, a statement was issued postponing the resumption of the trial until Jan. 29th, a delay Saddam's lawyers had planned to seek unless they received a response in writing to their earlier court motions. Those, CBS News correspondent Susan Roberts reports, include one questioning the legitimacy of the court – an issue Saddam has brought up himself many times during his court appearances.

Court official Raid Juhi told journalists that the court had decided to postpone the hearing until Sunday.

He said the delay was because "some of the witnesses who were due to appear today have been unable to attend because some of them were performing the pilgrimage" to Saudi Arabia.

But two judges said the members of the panel hearing the case were squabbling over he appointment of the new chief judge, Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman. It appeared some members were trying to bring back the former chief judge and the another jurist who was removed from the panel.

Tuesday's courtroom suspense was just one more chapter in a trial that has been punctuated by delays, assassinations and chaotic courtroom outbursts by Saddam.

The prosecution intends to press ahead with more witnesses, including some former Saddam associates who might be able to link him and his seven co-defendants to the 1982 massacre of more than 140 Shiites in the town of Dujail.

The new chief judge is Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, who like his predecessor is a Kurd. Abdel-Rahman was born in Halabja, the town where Saddam's forces allegedly launched a poison gas attack in 1988 that killed 5,000 Kurds. Some relatives of Abdel-Rahman were among the dead, according to his family.

Saddam is expected to eventually go on trial for the Halabja deaths. But the current trial, which began Oct. 19 and is to hold its eighth session Tuesday, is for the killings of about 140 Shiites in a crackdown that followed a failed assassination attempt in 1982 against the former ruler in Dujail, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

Saddam and seven co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted in the Dujail case. Abdel-Rahman has served on a backup panel and has been following the trial since it began Oct. 25, officials said.

In other recent developments:

  • An Iraqi deputy minister for justice says six of nine women whom the kidnappers of American reporter Jill Carroll want released may be freed from U.S. military custody this week. But White House counselor Dan Bartlett said on CBS News' The Early Show, "One thing we can't do unfortunately is negotiate with terrorists … It would only invite more kidnappings and more death." The kidnappers threatened to kill Carroll unless U.S. forces released all Iraqi women in military custody.
  • Water supplied to a U.S. base in Iraq was contaminated and the contractor in charge, Halliburton, failed to tell troops and civilians at the facility, according to internal documents from the company. Although the allegations came from Halliburton's water quality experts, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney denied there was a contamination problem at Camp Junction City in Ramadi.
  • A suicide car bomber killed at least three Iraqis Monday near the Green Zone housing the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government. The suicide bomber targeted a police patrol near the Iranian Embassy, said the top Baghdad police officer.
  • Two U.S. airmen were killed and a third was wounded in an attack on a convoy Sunday near Taji, where a U.S. air base is located 12 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. The deaths brought the number of U.S. military personnel killed since the war in Iraq began in March 2003 to at least 2,226, according to an Associated Press count.