Friday, July 08, 2005

Al-Qaida Claims Killing of Egyptian Envoy

Al-Qaida in Iraq said in a Web posting Thursday that it had killed Egypt's top envoy in Iraq, showing a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself. The video did not show his death.
Egypt's ambassador to Iraq, Ihab al-Sherif
A statement purportedly from al-Qaida said it delayed claiming responsibility for the Saturday abduction of Ihab al-Sherif "to be able to capture as many ambassadors as we can." The claim of responsibility was posted Tuesday following kidnap attempts against top diplomats from Pakistan and Bahrain in a campaign to isolate Iraq's U.S.-backed government in the Arab and Muslim world. "We announce in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq that the verdict of God against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, has been carried out. Thank God," a written statement in the Web posting said. The video showed al-Sherif blindfolded and wearing a polo shirt. He identified himself as the head of Egypt's mission in Iraq and said he worked previously in Israel, where Egypt maintains an embassy. Al-Sherif was deputy Egyptian ambassador in Israel from 1999-2003. However, the tape did not show al-Sherif's death. Previous al-Qaida tapes did show hooded men butchering their captives. If the claim to have assassinated al-Sherif is true, it would mark a dramatic escalation in a campaign to discourage Arab and Muslim governments from sending ambassadors and strengthening ties with Iraq, as Washington wants. Iraqi officials have called on other countries to stay the course and keep their diplomats in Baghdad. "I don't think what happened will discourage others to open embassies in Iraq considering the security guarantees by the Iraqi government," Jawad al-Maliki, chairman of the parliamentary security committee, told Al-Arabiya television. "Syria for example is willing to open embassy in Iraq and Tehran. Jordan also is serious with this matter." Laith Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, referred to explosions against transport facilities in London on Thursday, adding this "confirms that terrorism in not only targeting Iraqis but everyone." Al-Sherif, 51, was seized in a western Baghdad neighborhood as he stopped to buy a newspaper, witnesses said. He was not accompanied by any security.