Egypt top envoy to Baghdad kidnapped as US Attorney General pays surprise visit
Egypt's top envoy to Iraq has been kidnapped in Baghdad just weeks after arriving in the country, Egyptian diplomats said Sunday. Two diplomats, speaking in Cairo and Baghdad to The AP, said Ihab al-Sherif was kidnapped late Saturday in the Iraqi capital.
Al-Sherif had arrived in Baghdad on June 1. In mid-June, the Egyptian government said it would upgrade ties with Iraq to full embassy status headed by an ambassador, but it was not immediately clear if al-Sherif currently held the title of ambassador. In a message relayed by a deputy, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said al-Sherif was "Egypt's representative to the whole Iraqi people and that his legal status is the chief of the diplomatic mission and not ambassador."
Egyptian deputy foreign minister Hani Khallaf also said he hoped the kidnappers would appreciate that al-Sherif had gone "to serve the interests of the Iraqi people and we expect them to deal with him in a way compatible with his national, pan-Arab and humanitarian mission."
Meanwhile, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a heavily guarded surprise visit to Iraq Sunday, praising Iraqi's commitment to democracy in the wake of sustained deadly attacks.
Gonzales, on his first trip to Iraq, said he chose the Independence Day weekend to show support for U.S. troops and Iraq's nascent government. "We are doing a lot to promote democracy and the rule of law," Gonzales said aboard an Air Force plane en route to the Middle East.
Gonzales was meeting with U.S. soldiers, Justice Department officials working in Iraq and his counterparts in the Iraqi government.
In violence Sunday, a car bomb killed three Iraqi policemen north of Baghdad, while two U.S. soldiers were injured in a suicide attack near a checkpoint in the volatile western city of Ramadi.
Also in Ramadi, a U.S. military helicopter caught fire Saturday night, destroying $13.5 million CH-47 Chinook and injuring one crewman, the U.S. military said Sunday.