Bahrain envoy shot in Iraq

Hassan al-Ansari, Bahrain’s charge d’affaires in Iraq, was slightly wounded after gunmen in a pickup truck opened fire as he was travelling in his car, according to an interior ministry source.

He was taken to Yarmouk Hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound in his right shoulder.

In a separate incident, four female civil servants were killed and three others wounded when gunmen opened fire on a minibus carrying them to work at Baghdad International Airport.

Also, an explosion went off near the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, but it is not clear what caused the blast or whether it was targeted at the mission or a passing US convoy.

The latest violence comes as Iraqi and coalition troops continue searching for the Egyptian ambassador Ihab al-Sharif, who was kidnapped on Saturday as he stopped to buy a newspaper in Baghdad’s al-Jamiaa neighbourhood.

So far 100 suspects, including Egyptians, have been arrested, according to the US military.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction Mr Sharif, who was set to become the first Arab ambassador to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in March 2003.

The Egyptian government has appealed for his swift release, calling on his captors not to mistreat the 51-year-old father of two.

US and Iraqi soldiers have scoured restive districts west of the airport, including suspected insurgent hideouts.

“Soldiers are conducting offensive operations against terrorist safe havens on the west side of Baghdad airport,” Sergeant David Abrams told Agence France Press.

Mr Sharif was abducted by seven armed men when he stopped his car outside two shops, according to eyewitnesses.

He was named ambassador on June 1 but had yet to be formally presented his credentials, and is the first head of mission to be abducted since Iraq’s hostage crisis began.

Bahrain has close ties to the US, hosting a major US naval base in the Gulf that was involved in the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Despite an ongoing insurgency that has claimed thousands of US and Iraqi lives more than two years after the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, US President George W Bush used Fourth of July celebrations to urge Americans to rally behind the Iraq mission.

“There were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way,” he told thousands of cheering supporters on Monday.

“But Americans have always held firm because we have always believed in certain truths: We know that the freedom we defend is meant for all men and women, and for all times.”

Recent polls show a majority of the US public disapproves of the way Mr Bush has handled Iraq, and some surveys report a majority of Americans say that they do not believe the war was worth fighting.