Pakistani diplomat to Iraq reaches Jordan
* Al Qaeda claims kidnapping Egyption envoy
* Iraqi and US govts ask diplomats to stay
* Zarqawi announces new unit
AMMAN: Pakistan’s ambassador to Iraq, Mohammed Younis Khan, arrived in Jordan on Wednesday, a day after he escaped an attack by insurgents seeking to discourage Islamic countries from bolstering ties with the US-backed Iraqi government.
Younis flew on a commercial flight from Baghdad in line with instructions from his government, which said on Tuesday it has asked him to leave Baghdad temporarily. Gunmen riding in two cars opened fire on Younis’s convoy on Tuesday as he was on his way home from work in the same neighborhood, but he wasn’t wounded. “Our escort fired back at them so we were able to escape without any harm,” said Younis after the assault, adding, “It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to think of being scared.”
Al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq said it would kill Egypt’s top envoy, kidnapped in Baghdad four days ago. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Sunni radicals made the threat in a Web statement titled “Sharp sword against the infidels’ ambassador”.
“The sharia court of Al Qaeda Organisation in Iraq has decided to hand over the apostate, the ambassador of Egypt which is allied to Jews and Christians, to the mujahideen to kill him,” it said.
But in Baghdad, Prime Ibrahim Jaafari called on countries not to withdraw, saying, “We hope all countries will stand beside us, to bolster the democratic process and continue to carry out their political work in Iraq, mindful of security procedures.” Washington echoed the plea. “It’s no secret Iraq is a dangerous place,” said US embassy spokesman Adam Hobson, adding the American government believed it was important for the international community to support Iraqis by establishing and maintaining a diplomatic presence.”
Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor told reporters during a break in a cabinet meeting that the government has “a plan to protect diplomats after these incidents.” He gave no details. He also said some diplomats were lax over security. “The Egyptian ambassador went to a hot spot alone and he bears responsibility for that,” said Jabor.
In fresh violence, a policeman was killed and 10 others wounded in an attack on their patrol in eastern Baghdad and a senior police officer was wounded in a drive by shooting in the capital, said hospital and interior ministry sources. In Hilla, police said that 13 people were killed and 30 wounded late on Wednesday night in two almost simultaneous car bombings in Mashruh. Lieutenant Ali al-Shumari of the Mashruh police said the bombs exploded within about three minutes of each other near a car market. The latter blast came as rescue workers were arriving at the scene.
Also, Zarqawi lashed out at contacts between some rebels and US officials as he announced the creation of a new unit to take on Shia foes, in voice message attributed to him. Zarqawi, whose insurgency is operated by mainly Sunni militants, said he was creating a new brigade, called “Brigade Omar” to take on its opponents within Iraq’s majority Shia Muslim community. agencies