Egypt’s Iraq envoy murdered

Ambassador-designate Ihab al-Sharif, who is the first foreign head of mission to have been kidnapped and murdered since Iraq’s hostage crisis began, was abducted at the weekend in Baghdad.

“This terrorist act will not dissuade Egypt from adopting strong positions in solidarity with Iraq and its people and will not make Egypt go back on its support to the country and Arab causes,” the office of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said.

Earlier, the “al-Qaeda Organisation in the Land of Two Rivers” released a statement on a website claiming the killing of Mr Sharif, who had been due to become the first ambassador from an Arab country to Iraq.

“We announce that the judgement of God Almighty has been executed on the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt,” said the internet statement.

A video on the website showed a blindfolded Mr Sharif identifying himself as he recalled his career at the foreign ministry.

“I was deputy assistant foreign minister for near eastern affairs from 1999 until 2003, including a year as a deputy to
Egypt’s ambassador in Israel,” he said.

However unlike previous instances in which hostages have been killed, the video did not show footage of Mr Sharif’s execution.

“The ambassador of the infidels has confessed information that showed that his regime is an infidel and which proved his affiliation to the Jews and the Crusaders,” said the statement
which could not be authenticated.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit told reporters that embassy staff in Iraq would not be repatriated and that the diplomatic mission there would “continue to function in order to serve the relations between the two peoples and among the Muslims.”

Jordanian-born Zarqawi, who has a US$25 million price on his head, has claimed responsibility for a large number of attacks, kidnappings and murders in Iraq since the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein two years ago.