Kidnapped Iraqi woman journalist released unharmed after a week

Iraqi journalist Afrah al-Qaisi, who was released unharmed after being kidnapped by unidentified gunmen a week ago, speaks to the media in Baghdad, Iraq January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi journalist Afrah al-Qaisi, known in her country for criticizing the government in satirical articles for local media, has been released unharmed after being kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Baghdad a week ago. The head of the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, Ziyad al-Ajili, said on Wednesday the kidnappers had returned the car, telephone, laptop and gold jewelry they took when they broke into her home and that she drove back overnight around midnight. A video aired by the Kurdish NRT channel showed emotional scenes after Qaisi, who used to work for the Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, was reunited with her family and friends after returning home. "I just want to say that I'm fine and I was well treated," she said, sobbing and shaking. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi telephoned Qaisi to check on her well-being after her release, his media office said. The kidnapping highlighted the dangers journalists face in Iraq, where 71 have been killed with impunity over the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Many were victims of Sunni insurgents active in Iraq even before Islamic State militants overran around a third of the country more than two years ago. But other armed factions, including Shi'ite militias, some backed by the government, have grown increasingly powerful through their participation in Baghdad's fight against Islamic State. (Reporting by Saif Hameed; Editing by Isabel Coles and Tom Heneghan)