- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

NEW YORK — Terrorists in Iraq killed Egypt’s ambassador yesterday, five days after he was kidnapped from a Baghdad street, Egyptian officials announced at the United Nations and in Cairo.

The death of Ihab al-Sherif had been reported earlier on an Arabic language Web site affiliated with al Qaeda, but it was not clear last night how he died.

“We lost today our ambassador in Iraq,” said Maged Abdelaziz, Egypt’s U.N. ambassador. “He was killed today, brutally killed.”

The slaying of Mr. al-Sherif follows attacks this week on envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain, prompting some to fear an exodus of diplomatic staff even as the new Iraqi government is struggling forge ties with neighbors and allies. Both countries have close relations with the United States.

Egypt’s ambassador to Washington was outraged that the terrorists use religion to justify their crimes.

“We condemn this deplorable act,” said Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian ambassador to the United States. “It is a gross distortion of the tolerant faith of Islam and shows that terrorism knows no borders.”

Nearly 50 nations, including a dozen Arab states, have diplomatic representation in Iraq. However, none of them is headed at the level of ambassador, Mr. al-Sherif’s ranks.

Mr. Abdelaziz said Cairo was “most urgently” requesting a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the safety of all foreign diplomats posted in Iraq. Late yesterday, the emergency meeting was scheduled for today.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday condemned the ambassador’s killing and said Egypt would continue to support Iraq and the Iraqi people. However, diplomats said it was not clear whether Cairo would send another high-ranking envoy to replace Mr. al-Sherif, and Egypt announced late yesterday that it would close its Iraq mission temporarily.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also condemned the killing and vowed that “such acts perpetrated by a few will not deter the commitment and resolve of the United Nations and the international community to help the Iraqi people in their transition towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraq.”

Mr. al-Sherif, 51, was a career diplomat who previously had been posted to Tel Aviv. He was abducted Saturday while driving alone near his Baghdad residence.

A group thought to be aligned with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the abduction and said it had executed the ambassador because of Cairo’s ties to Israel and the United States.

“We al Qaeda in Iraq announce that the judgment of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt,” the group said in a statement posted yesterday on its Web site and translated by Reuters. “Oh enemy of God, Ihab Sherif, this is your punishment in this life.”

The Web site also showed footage of the blindfolded diplomat saying that he had worked in the Egyptian Embassy in Israel.

The group is led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, whom U.S. authorities have branded as a top terrorist target inside Iraq.

Mr. al-Sherif, who had been posted to Iraq for about a month, had told his family not to worry about him.

“We were surprised that this happened. We are Muslims and he was in an Arab country,” said the envoy’s 19-year-old daughter, Anji, who wept as she spoke to journalists in Cairo. “He told me not to be afraid because Iraq is an Arab country.”

Mr. al-Sherif was the first Arab diplomat to be posted in post-invasion Iraq with the title of ambassador. All others had been charges or minister-councilors, a lesser rank.

Seth Rosen in Washington contributed to this article.

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