"A number of army vehicles entered the car market and they took around 30 people and shot randomly at the people. They were wearing army uniforms," a witness to the kidnapping told Reuters news agency.

Uniform controls

A spokesman for the defence ministry, which oversees the army, stressed the difficulties in controlling the distribution of uniforms.

"A number of army vehicles entered the car market and they took around 30 people and shot randomly at the people. They were wearing army uniforms"

A witness to
the Baghdad kidnapping
"Anyone can buy military or police uniforms from the market, although we have issued orders to confiscate these uniforms and punish the owners," Mohammed al-Askari said.

Iraqi security forces sealed off the area and were interviewing witnesses, while panicked store owners closed their shops and fled.

The Iraqi capital is plagued by daily kidnappings and in a similar case last month men in camouflage uniforms abducted dozens of staff and visitors from the higher education ministry.

The ministry said on Thursday that 56 were still officially recorded as missing.

In the mostly Shia Wasit province southeast of Baghdad police found 17 bullet-riddled bodies, bound, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture, including five that were dumped in a flour mill in the town of Wahda.

Beheaded bodies

Three other bodies, including one that was beheaded, were found elsewhere in a volatile area southwest of the capital.

Armed men also stormed a boys' school in southwestern Baghdad, killing a Shia guard, and two more people died in separate attacks northeast of the capital.

Roadside bombs exploded in Musayyib and Samarra killing one soldier and two commandos.

The attacks came as a senior US general said that sectarian violence must be brought under control.

"We have to change the dynamics that are going on in Baghdad. There is a lot of sectarian murder in Baghdad," Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno said at a ceremony where he officially assumed day-to-day control of US troops in Iraq.