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Home >> World
UPDATED: 11:21, July 04, 2005
Egypt's top envoy to Iraq kidnapped
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Photo:The new Egyptian ambassador to Iraq Ihab al-Sharif has been kidnapped in western Baghdad, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV channel reported on Sunday, July 3, 2005.
The new Egyptian ambassador to Iraq Ihab al-Sharif has been kidnapped in western Baghdad, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV channel reported on Sunday, July 3, 2005.
Egypt's top envoy to Iraq was kidnapped in Baghdad just weeks after arriving in the country, Egyptian diplomats said Sunday. Witnesses said gunmen accosted him as he stopped to buy a newspaper, beat him and accused him of being an "American spy."

Elsewhere, a car bomb killed six Iraqi policemen north of Baghdad Sunday, officials said. Two US soldiers were wounded and a suicide attacker died in an explosion Sunday near a checkpoint in Ramadi, a Marine spokesman said. Also, a police general and the government's industry minister escaped assassination in attacks on their vehicles.

Two diplomats, speaking in Cairo and Baghdad on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Egyptian envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, was kidnapped late on Saturday in the Iraqi capital. Al-Sherif has been in Iraq since June 1.

Last month, the Egyptian Government said it would upgrade its mission in Iraq to full embassy status headed by an ambassador, which would have made al-Sherif the first Arab ambassador to the new Iraqi Government.

It was not immediately clear if al-Sherif had been given the ambassadorial title.

The kidnapping could undermine US-backed efforts to encourage Iraq's Arab neighbours to send high-ranking diplomats to Baghdad. The posting of more senior diplomats to Iraq is seen as a key step to restoring confidence in the country's fledgling transitional government, which is struggling to control a raging insurgency led by Sunni Arabs.

One of the country's leading Sunni organizations called for al-Sherif's immediate release. The Iraqi Islamic Party strongly condemned the abduction and demanded al-Sherif's release "without delay."

Egyptian diplomats gave no immediate details of the kidnapping.

However, three Iraqis who claimed they witnessed the attack said al-Sherif was driving alone in a vehicle with diplomatic license plates when he stopped to buy a newspaper from a store on the Rabie Street in Baghdad's western al-Jamaa neighbourhood.

About eight gunmen surrounded him, the witnesses said on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals. One of them struck him on the head with a pistol butt as others shouted that he was "an American spy," the witnesses said.

Mubarak follows abduction of diplomat in Iraq

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asked to be kept informed of the alleged abduction of the top Egyptian diplomat in Iraq, the official MENA news agency reported Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said Mubarak directed Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit to contact the Iraqi authorities and report back to him with the latest developments.

Abul Gheit said earlier the government was maintaining contacts with the Iraqi government on the latest efforts in search for Ihab al-Sherif, who went missing earlier on Sunday.

Abul Gheit said if Sherif was abducted, he hoped that the Egyptian diplomat would be treated kindly and return to his family as soon as possible.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for taking Sherif hostage.

Another report from MENA quoted a source from the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Iraq as saying that Sherif was most likely abducted.

The sources said Sherif did not arrive at the Egyptian embassy's premises on Sunday, something that strengthens the possibility that he has been kidnapped.

Sherif was appointed as head of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Iraq in June.

Source: China Daily/Xinhua


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