Abducted Egyptian Envoy Murdered in Iraq

Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch has murdered Ihab Sherif, Egypt’s ambassador to Iraq, whom they kidnapped Saturday. They have threatened to kill diplomats from other countries who recognize the democratically elected Iraqi government.

Abducted Egyptian Envoy Killed in Iraq (WaPo, A1)

Kidnappers said Thursday they had killed Egypt’s top diplomat in Iraq, Ihab Sherif, who was abducted six days ago in Baghdad as part of a declared effort by insurgents to seize a large number of envoys. The Egyptian government confirmed the killing, which was reported in a posting on a Web site, purportedly by the insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq. The statement said that “the judgment of God Almighty on the ambassador of the apostates, the ambassador of Egypt, has been consummated with the praise of God.”

In another development, Iraqi officials said Thursday they had signed an agreement with Iran to receive military training for their fledgling armed forces, a function that has been supervised by the United States.

The Egyptian envoy, in a video posted Thursday on the Internet, was shown wearing a blindfold and heard identifying himself as holding “an ambassador’s rank in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I worked as an assistant to the deputy foreign minister for Arab Middle East affairs from 1999 to 2003, including a year as a deputy ambassador in Israel.”

Al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq’s two-year-old insurgency and for kidnapping and killing several foreigners. Many of those kidnapped have been beheaded, and video images of their executions have been posted on the Internet. The video showing Sherif, however, did not show the envoy being killed.

Sherif, 51, came to Baghdad on June 1 and was to have become the first ambassador from an Arab country accredited to the new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. He was last seen Saturday night before leaving his house to buy a newspaper. His four-wheel-drive vehicle was found Sunday, and on Tuesday, al Qaeda in Iraq claimed that it had kidnapped him.

In its statement, the insurgent group said it intended to kidnap other envoys to deter countries from strengthening diplomatic ties with Iraq. Gunmen on Tuesday tried to kidnap two other diplomats from Muslim countries, Mohammed Younis Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador, and Hassan Malallah Ansari, Bahrain’s charge d’affaires.

Rebels Kill Egyptian Diplomat, Adding Pressure on Others in Iraq (NYT | RSS)

Photo: A short video released by Ihab al-Sharif's captors, and killers, showed him offering a terse summary of his diplomatic work for Egypt. The insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq said Thursday that it had killed Egypt’s ambassador-designate in Iraq, Ihab al-Sharif, four days after gunmen seized him on a street in a diplomatic quarter in western Baghdad, where he had driven alone to buy a local newspaper.

In a posting on an Islamic Web site, the group said Mr. Sharif’s killing was “the judgment of God” and described him as representing a “tyrannical” government in Egypt that was allied with “Jews and Christians.” An accompanying video showed Mr. Sharif, 51, saying he had been Egypt’s deputy ambassador in Israel before relations were downgraded after the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that began five years ago.

“Oh enemy of God, Ihab al-Sharif, this is your punishment in this life, and you will be condemned to hell in the hereafter,” the posting said.

The video did not show the killing, but the Egyptian government confirmed Mr. Sharif’s death on Thursday night, and Egypt’s state-run television interrupted evening programming for special tributes. A Foreign Ministry statement said the slaying would not intimidate Egypt.

“Egypt stresses that the targeting of one of its sons will not keep it from pursuing its policy toward the people of Iraq,” the statement said. Egypt, it said, “intends to help Iraqis to attain security and stability and preserve their national unity.”

Egyptian newspaper and television commentators, though, questioned the decision to assign a senior diplomat to Baghdad, and some suggested the government had acted under American pressure.

But Mr. Sharif’s eldest daughter, Ingy, said in a tearful television interview that her father had spoken often of a sense of duty in helping Iraq and that he insisted he would return safely. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry, if I managed to go to Israel, then I will manage in Iraq,’ ” Ms. Sharif said. “He said, ‘We have to see Iraq return to what it was before. I’m not scared at all.’ “

One hope’s Ingy’s attitude prevails. Surely, sovereign governments will not allow themselves to be intimidated by thugs.

The NYT characterization of al Qaeda in Iraq as an “insurgent group” and “rebels” is as outrageous as it is wrong. While there is an insurgent faction in Iraq, they are not it. By most established definitions, “insurgents” are domestic groups fighting against their government or an occupying force. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a terrorist group consisting mostly of Sunni Arabs from outside Iraq.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.