- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2005

BAGHDAD — Gunmen seized two Algerian diplomats yesterday — including the country’s top envoy to Iraq — in the latest attacks aimed at scaring away Muslim diplomats and undermining the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

The abductions brought to five the number of key diplomats from Islamic countries targeted in Baghdad in less than three weeks. The top Egyptian envoy reportedly was killed after being captured, and two apparent kidnapping attempts against diplomats were foiled.

The chief of Algeria’s mission in Iraq, charge d’affaires Ali Belaroussi, and another Algerian diplomat, Azzedine Ben Kadi, were dragged from their car with their driver in western Baghdad’s upscale Mansour district, police and Algerian officials said.

Mr. Belaroussi, a career diplomat, has been in Iraq for about two years and served as financial director at Algeria’s embassy in Paris from 1997 to 2002, Algerian officials said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari pledged to increase security for diplomats but cautioned them against going to dangerous areas. The Mansour district has been the site of several kidnappings, including that of Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong and Briton Kenneth Bigley. All three were killed.

Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Khafaji told Al Jazeera television that the Algerian envoy had refused Iraqi offers to provide him with bodyguards, saying he didn’t need protection because “Algeria’s relationship with the Iraqis is good.”

No group took responsibility for the latest kidnapping.

On July 2, Egyptian diplomat Ihab al-Sherif was seized at gunpoint in another western Baghdad neighborhood. Three days later, gunmen opened fire on senior envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain in what police said were kidnapping attempts.

Al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq, the country’s most feared terror group, took responsibility in Web statements for kidnapping Mr. al-Sherif and later said it killed him.

The militants want to seize “as many ambassadors as we can” to punish governments that support Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated government, according to Internet statements attributed to the group, led by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi.

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