Iraqi doctor freed after $500,000 ransom

Kidnappings are common in Kirkuk

KIRKUK - An Iraqi paediatrician was released by militants after his family paid a half-million dollar ransom, a senior police officer in the ethnically divided northern city of Kirkuk said on Sunday.
Safi Harzan, 48, was freed on Saturday evening in a village south of the city after spending three weeks in captivity, according to the officer, who did not want to be named.
"His family paid $500,000 to his kidnappers," he said.
"The kidnapping has deeply affected him psychologically so he is now being treated at Kirkuk general hospital."
Kidnappings are common in Kirkuk, the centre of Iraq's northern oil fields, 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad. Police in the city accuse Al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups of being behind the kidnaps, as other sources of funding have dried up.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there have been at least 45 kidnappings in Kirkuk since the start of the year, with the majority of the victims belonging to wealthy families.
Since June 15, the official said, a total of $1.1 million has been paid in ransoms to secure the release of hostages.
And in the past 24 hours, two girls aged 14 and 15 have been snatched in separate incidents.
Kirkuk, the capital city of the province of the same name, is at the centre of a tract of disputed territory that Kurdish leaders want to incorporate in their autonomous region in the north over the opposition of many Arab and Turkmen residents, as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.