msnbc.com news services
updated 8/8/2004 9:58:14 AM ET 2004-08-08T13:58:14

Militants in Iraq said Sunday they had taken a top Iranian diplomat hostage, according to video shown on the Arab-language Al-Arabiya television station. The Iranian government later confirmed the claim.

The video showed a bearded man identified as Faridoun Jihani speaking to the camera, though his voice was not audible. The video also showed nine forms of his identification, as well as his passport and a business card identifying him as the “consul for the Islamic Republic of Iran in Karbala,” a southern Iraqi city.

The kidnappers, who called themselves the “Islamic Army in Iraq,” accused Jihani of provoking sectarian war in Iraq and they warned Iran not to interfere in Iraq’s affairs, according to Al-Arabiya.

The kidnappers did not appear to threaten Jihani and made no demands, according to the report.

Jihani would be the second senior diplomat taken hostage in Iraq in recent weeks. Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, an Egyptian diplomat, was abducted July 23 outside a mosque in Baghdad and freed unharmed July 26.

The Islamic Army in Iraq had previously abducted a Filipino threatened to kill him, but released him after the Philippines withdrew its forces from Iraq.

The group also claimed the kidnapping of two Pakistanis and an Iraqi in July and threatened to kill them if their company did not pull out of the country. The two Pakistanis were later reported killed, while the Iraqi was freed.

Both Iraqi and U.S. officials are uneasy about attempts by Iran, which presents itself as a centre for the Shi'ite world, to gain influence among neighbouring Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

Iran's ISNA student news agency quoted an Iraqi police spokesman in Kerbala as saying 1,200 Iranians had been arrested there in the last 10 days. He said most of them had been deported across the Iranian border, but 32 had been kept for questioning.

Tens of thousands of Iranians have flocked to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf on pilgrimage since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein last year.

Iraq's defence minister accused Iran last week of "blatant interference" in Iraq's domestic affairs. Iran denies the accusations.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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