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Two German embassy staff missing in Iraq

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A search is under way for two German security officials who disappeared and may have been killed while travelling between Amman and Baghdad, officials in Berlin say.

An Iraqi newspaper published pictures of two men it said the German embassy in Baghdad confirmed went missing on Wednesday on a road near the volatile Sunni town of Falluja. Al Raqeeb said the embassy told the paper it feared they had been kidnapped.

But the Interior Ministry in Berlin said on Saturday the two embassy guards may have been killed because there were no signs of a kidnapping. Germany's ARD television said the car of the two guards was found abandoned and badly damaged.

"It can't be ruled out that they have been killed," an Interior Ministry spokesman said, adding the security officials were taking part in a routine exchange of staff at the embassy.

He could not confirm German media reports the two were members of Germany's elite anti-terror GSG-9 security force.

Security officials in Berlin said coalition forces were helping in the intensive search for the missing Germans.

Several foreigners have been taken hostage on dangerous roads between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan, which pass through the Falluja area, where the ongoing Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces intensified this week.

A spokeswoman in Berlin confirmed the report that two men, aged 38 and 25, had disappeared on the road "several days ago".

"But there are no indications they have been kidnapped," she said. She did not provide any further details.

Many people used land routes to come into Iraq because of the danger of planes being hit by missiles.


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