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IRAQ - July 7 - Kidnapped Egyptian Diplomat Killed In Iraq.

Gunmen kill the head of Egypt's diplomatic mission in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sherif, which, the Al Qaeda group says it executed him because he represented a "tyrannical" government allied to Jews and Christians. The envoy, ambassador Ihab al-Sherif, was abducted near his home in Baghdad after taking up his post as one of the highest ranking Arab diplomats in Iraq. A former diplomat in Tel Aviv, Sherif appears to have fallen foul of a conflict between insurgents and the US-backed rulers in Baghdad over Arab recognition of the government. The Iraqi government had said Egypt planned to upgrade its representation in Baghdad to full ambassador level. Egypt said that although Sherif has the civil service rank of ambassador, his title remained head of the diplomatic mission in Iraq. The Al Qaeda group in Iraq announced his death on July 7 in an Internet statement posted on an Islamist Web site. "We al Qaeda in Iraq announce that the judgement of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt. Oh enemy of God, Ihab el-Sherif, this is your punishment in this life", the statement said. The group, led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, posted a video showing the hostage speaking but not the actual killing. The Egyptian presidency confirmed that Sherif was dead, saying in a statement that the envoy had "lost his life at the hands of terrorism which trades in Islam". "The Egyptian Foreign Ministry ... has received with deep pain and sadness the news of the martyrdom of Ambassador Dr Ihab al-Sherif", added a FM statement. An Egyptian diplomatic source said Egypt had confirmation of the killing "through multiple contacts" but had not received decisive evidence from the Iraqi government and did not know where Sherif's body might be. The killing surprised the Egyptian government, which earlier on July 7 was saying that it remained in contact with all Iraqi groups and hoped to secure his release. Egyptian FM Ahmad Aboul Gheit had told reporters that Sherif was a pious Muslim and that his mission in Iraq was to make contact with all sectors of Iraqi society. On the video, Sherif appeared blindfolded. He identified himself by name and said he was the head of the Egyptian mission in Iraq with ambassadorial rank in Egypt's foreign ministry. "Previously ... I was deputy to the Egyptian ambassador to Israel", he said. He appeared alone without militants. Al Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq said it would later provide details of Sherif's interrogation. "The ambassador of the infidels gave information that showed the infidelity of his regime and allegiance to the Jews and Christians. His confessions were taped", said the statement. The Egyptian government is one of the friendliest in the region towards the US, which militant Islamists call a crusader state because of its invasions of Muslim countries. Egypt was also the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. Relations with Israel have improved this year, with important agreements on trade and gas deliveries. The killing of Sherif sparked a heated domestic controversy, with opposition leaders blaming the government for rushing him to Baghdad to please the US. "His blood is on the hands of those who sent him to Iraq at this time", said Dia el-Din Dawoud, leader of the Arab nationalist and leftist Nasserite Party. "Egypt wanted to stand out by sending the first Arab ambassador to Iraq, but as long as our policies do not spring from our national and Arab interests, this will be the outcome", he told Reuters. Other leaders made similar remarks. The Sunni Muslim group announced on July 6 it would kill Sharif and also warned that other envoys would face the same fate. It has in the past beheaded foreign captives, including two Americans and a Briton. Zarqawi's group is one of the leaders of a bloody insurgency against US forces and the American-backed Iraqi government. Most of the hostages taken by the group have been killed. "Egypt's prisons are full of mujahideen and its courts do not rule by God's law. They have issued sentences against true Muslims, including our Sheikh Ayman Al Zawahri", Al Qaeda said, referring to the Egyptian right-hand man of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, wanted by Cairo for anti-government attacks.
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Title Annotation:Ihab al-Sherif
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 9, 2005
Previous Article:IRAQ - July 3 - Egypt's Envoy To Iraq Kidnapped In Baghdad.
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