Gunmen Kidnap Egypt’s Top Envoy to Iraq
Egypt’s top envoy to Iraq was kidnapped in Baghdad just weeks after arriving in the country, Egyptian diplomats said Sunday. Witnesses said gunmen accosted him as he stopped to buy a newspaper, beat him and accused him of being an “American spy.”
Two diplomats, speaking in Cairo and Baghdad on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Egyptian envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, was kidnapped late Saturday in the Iraqi capital. Al-Sherif has been in Iraq since June 1. Last month, the Egyptian government said it would upgrade its mission in Iraq to full embassy status headed by an ambassador, but it was not immediately clear if al-Sherif had been given the ambassadorial title.
The diplomats gave no immediate details of the kidnapping. However, three Iraqis who claimed they witnessed the attack said al-Sherif was driving alone in a vehicle with diplomatic license plates when he stopped to buy a newspaper from a store on the Rabie Street in Baghdad’s western al-Jamaa neighborhood. About eight gunmen surrounded him, the witnesses said on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals. One of them struck him on the head with a pistol butt as others shouted that he was “an American spy,” the witnesses said. They shoved him into the trunk of a car and sped away. Bystanders reported the incident to a passing American convoy. U.S. soldiers searched al-Sherif’s car, which was removed Sunday.
Al-Sherif was the second Egyptian diplomat to have been kidnapped in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, then Egypt’s third-ranking diplomat, was seized June 23, 2004 by Islamic militants who claimed they wanted to deter Egypt from deploying troops in Iraq. He was freed a month later after Egypt reaffirmed it had no intention of sending soldiers to Iraq.
This strikes me as an incredibly stupid move on the part of the insurgents if they want to portray their war as a battle of righteous Muslims against infidel Westerners. Of course, I’ve thought that before and continue to be amazed that more ordinary Muslims don’t rally against these thugs.