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Archive for Friday, July 22, 2005

Two Algerian diplomats reportedly kidnapped

July 22, 2005

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— Two Algerian diplomats and their driver were abducted Thursday in a western Baghdad neighborhood, police and embassy employees said.

Gunmen in two cars stopped the vehicle carrying charge d'affaires Balarousi Ali and another diplomat near the al-Sa'a restaurant in the upscale Mansour district, which is home to many embassies, and dragged the men from their car, police officials said.

An embassy employee confirmed by telephone that Ali had been seized but said Algerian staff "have no further information."

The second diplomat was identified as Azzedine Ben Kadi, according to an Algerian diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

The attack came more than two weeks after gunmen ambushed three other top diplomats from Muslim countries in western Baghdad, all in apparent bids to scare off foreign governments and isolate Iraq from the Arab world.

Insurgents claimed to have killed one, the Egyptian top envoy. Bahrain's top envoy was slightly wounded and Pakistan's ambassador escaped injury in those attacks.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, has threatened Arab and Muslim countries that cooperate with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

In earlier statements posted on the Internet, the country's most feared terror group said it wanted to seize "as many ambassadors as we can" to punish governments that support Iraq's Shiite-dominated government.

A total of 49 countries or entities have some form of diplomatic representation in Iraq, including 18 Arab or non-Arab Muslim countries, according to Iraq's Foreign Ministry and country Web sites.





Deaths in Iraq

As of Thursday, at least 1,772 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,363 have died as a result of hostile action. The figures include five military civilians. The AP count is four higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday. The British military has reported 92 deaths; Italy, 25; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands, two each; and Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia one death each. Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 1,633 U.S. military members have died, according to AP's count. That includes at least 1,254 deaths resulting from hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

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