Baghdad:The goalkeeper of the Kirkuk soccer club was kidnapped as he was traveling from northern Iraq to visit relatives in Baghdad, a sports official said on Thursday.
Gunmen seized Baha Abdul Karim Darweesh on Monday on the outskirts of Khalis, a Shiite enclave in the volatile Diyala province 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, according to a member of the Kurdish soccer federation.
Darweesh, a 24-year-old Sunni, lived in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk and was on his way to visit relatives in Baghdad when he was seized, the federation's Omar Khatab said.
Athletes and sports officials have increasingly become targets of threats, kidnappings and assassination attempts in Iraq, either as part of tit-for-tat violence between Shiites and Sunnis or for ransom.
Victims have included the Sunni head of one of Iraq's leading soccer clubs, an Iraqi international soccer referee, a top player on the Iraqi Olympic soccer team and a national volleyball player.