More police were on the streets on Friday in the fashionable western Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Mansur, where top Algerian envoy Ali Belaroussi, 62, and his colleague, Azzedine Belkadi, 47, were seized the day before. They were not travelling with bodyguards, officials said.
The kidnappings brought to five the number of key diplomats from Islamic countries targeted in Baghdad in less than three weeks, in an attempt to undermine support for the Iraqi government among Arab and Muslim nations.
On Friday, motorists reported more police checkpoints than usual in al-Mansur, scene of several high profile kidnappings. Police officials said they suspected the diplomats and their kidnappers might still be in the area, because witnesses reported the abduction too quickly for the gunmen to have gone far.
The Algerian diplomats were
Egypt’s top envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, was seized at gunpoint in another western Baghdad neighbourhood on 2 July, also without security. Three days later, gunmen opened fire on senior envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain in separate attacks which police described as kidnap attempts.
The Pakistani diplomat’s security guards returned fire and the assailants fled. The Bahraini, who was slightly wounded, had no bodyguards, but a traffic policeman saw the attack, fired his pistol in the air and the assailants fled, police said.
Al-Qaida’s wing in Iraq, the country’s most feared terror group, claimed responsibility in web statements for kidnapping al-Sherif and later claimed to have killed him.
It has warned Muslim nations against ties with Baghdad.
Al-Qaida has warned Muslim
Meanwhile, at least 16 people have died in scattered attacks, including a bride slain on the day after her wedding.
The attack on the newly-weds occurred after Iraqi army Captain Wisam Abd al-Wahab and his new bride, Sally, were picked up on Friday by their families after spending their wedding night at a hotel. They were ambushed in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighbourhood. The bride was killed and her husband wounded, police and hospital officials said.
“My poor Sally, she was very happy yesterday,” sobbed her mother-in-law Latifa Muhammad, too distraught to tell her son his bride was dead.
Four people – one Iraqi soldier and three civilians – were killed in Samarra, 95km north of Baghdad, during clashes there, police said. The other victims were Iraqi police or soldiers killed in scattered, small-scale attacks throughout Baghdad.