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Iraq Kidnappers Say Diplo Is Dead

Al Qaeda in Iraq said in a Web statement Thursday that it has killed Egypt's top envoy in Iraq, posting a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself.

"We announce in the al Qaeda 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 does not show the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, being killed.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said a day earlier that it had sentenced al-Sherif to death as an "apostate" for his country's support of the United States and the Iraqi government. The group has previously beheaded several foreign hostages, including three Americans.

Al-Sherif, who was sent to Baghdad in early June, was abducted from a Baghdad street late Saturday.

The video shows a man who appears to be the diplomat, blindfolded and wearing a polo shirt. He identifies himself as al-Sherif, says he is the head of the interests section in Iraq and gives his address. He then says he worked previously in Israel, where al-Sherif was part of the Egyptian embassy.

The claim's authenticity could not immediately be confirmed. Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials could not be immediately reached.

In related developments:

  • Eleven people were killed and 19 injured in a pair of car bombings in a town south of Baghdad. Police say one bomb went off at a car dealership, and the second went off at the entrance to the town of Jbala about a half-hour later. Police also report a car bomb explosion in the city of Kirkuk. They say one person was killed and another wounded - and that they apparently were rigging the car with explosives when the bomb went off prematurely.
  • Four Iraqi policemen were killed Wednesday and at least nine more wounded in separate attacks by insurgents in Baghdad.
  • The U.S. military said Wednesday it is holding five U.S. citizens suspected of insurgent activities in Iraq. They were captured separately and don't appear to have ties to one another, a Pentagon spokesman said. He declined to identify them, citing a Pentagon policy that prohibits identification of detainees.
  • A U.S. senator who criticized President Bush's Iraq policy at recent congressional hearings was in Baghdad for meetings with politicians, officials said. Sen. Carl Levin, the Senate Armed Services Committee's senior Democrat, was accompanied by several members of his staff.

    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 Iraq's new government — although the move had not yet been officially made.

  • The Web statement said al Qaeda had hoped to kidnap more ambassadors.

    "The reason we delayed the announcement of capturing the ambassador of the dictator Egypt was to be able to capture as many ambassadors as we can," it said, referring to the fact that al Qaeda didn't announce al-Sherif's abduction until several days later.

    The statement denounced the Egyptian government as "apostate" for its support of the United States. It said al-Sherif gave his captors under interrogation "information making clear the infidel nature of the (Egyptian) regime and his confessions have been recorded."

    "The Egyptian regime is one of the first to launch war on Islam and Muslims, since several decades," the statement said, pointing to Egypt's crackdown on Islamic militants on its own soil and its agreement to train Iraqi security forces.

    "It was first to obey the crusaders in ... sending the first ambassador to the (Iraqi) government," it said, referring to Egypt's announcement last month that it would send an ambassador to Baghdad, the first Arab government to do so.

    "Our sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ... is determined to stand up to traitors and crusaders and all those who stand with them, and we vow to all the dictatorial nations that Iraq is not safe for infidels because God has empowered the mujahedeen," it said.

    Al Qaeda in Iraq has waged a campaign of attacks on Iraqi and U.S. forces in Iraq.

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