- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CAIRO — Al Qaeda in Iraq said it has condemned two Algerian diplomats who were abducted in Baghdad, and a video made public yesterday shows the men blindfolded and in captivity.

In the video, Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi give their names and home addresses. It was the first time that they had been seen since they were hauled away at gunpoint last week.

Also yesterday, gunmen fired on two buses carrying workers home from a government-owned company on the western edge of Baghdad, killing 16 and wounding 27, police and a company official said.

A statement attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq and posted on the Internet earlier yesterday said the group would kill the diplomats.

In a brief written statement introducing the video, which also was posted on the Internet, al Qaeda in Iraq said the footage “was part of [the diplomats] confessions, and we will present you with more, God willing.”

Mr. Belaroussi, 62, and Mr. Belkadi, 47, were abducted Thursday along with their driver in western Baghdad’s upscale Mansour district, police and Algerian officials said.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, also has taken responsibility for attacking three other diplomats from Muslim nations.

Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif, 51, was seized July 2 in Iraq as part of an apparent campaign to undermine Arab nations’ support for the Iraqi government. Al Qaeda in Iraq later said Mr. al-Sherif had been killed, but they provided no evidence and his body has not been found.

After Mr. al-Sherif’s kidnapping, gunmen in Iraq fired on envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain in what police said were kidnap attempts. The Pakistani escaped unharmed, and the Bahraini envoy was slightly wounded.

Al Qaeda in Iraq yesterday also warned Iraqis not to take part in the constitutional referendum, expected in October, saying democracy goes against God’s law and anyone who participates would be considered an “infidel” and earmarked for death.

Sunni Arab members of the committee drafting the constitution had walked out earlier this month to protest the assassinations of two colleagues and agreed only Monday to resume work.

Sunni Arab support is crucial because the charter can be scuttled if voters in three of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject it by a two-thirds majority, and Sunni Arabs are a majority in four provinces. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq’s 27 million people but dominate areas where the insurgency is raging.

Parliament has to approve the draft constitution by Aug. 15, and voters will decide whether to approve the charter in mid-October. If they do, another general election will take place in December.

According to a draft published yesterday, framers of the constitution plan to designate Islam as the main source of legislation in a drastic departure from the model set down by the U.S. authorities.

“Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation,” reads the draft published in the government newspaper Al-Sabah. “No law that contradicts with its rules can be promulgated.”

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