BAGHDAD, Iraq — Gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying Pakistan's envoy to Iraq on Tuesday in the third attack on a senior diplomat in three days, police sources said.
The sources said two cars of gunmen fired at the convoy in the wealthy Mansour district of Baghdad but sped off after guards returned fire. Nobody was reported hurt, they said.
Earlier on Tuesday gunmen wounded Hassan Malallah al-Ansari, the top envoy from Bahrain. Egypt's envoy, Ihad al-Sherif, was kidnapped over the weekend.
Iraq's government spokesman said the attacks on the Egyptian and Bahraini diplomats were part of an effort to intimidate countries from bolstering diplomatic ties to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
“The aim is clear, just to create a state of fear,” Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kuba said. Al-Sherif’s kidnapping “was an attempt to ... scare the other diplomatic missions so that they won’t expand their presence in Iraq.”
Baghdad had indicated last week that the Egyptian diplomat would soon become the first Arab envoy in Baghdad with the full rank of ambassador since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Bahraini diplomat shot
The Bahraini diplomat, al-Ansari, was shot on his way to work in western Baghdad, said Dr. Muhanad Jawad of Yarmouk Hospital. Al-Ansari was treated for a shoulder wound and was released, witnesses said.
“There was an attempt to kidnap him by gunmen when he was on his way from his house to the Bahrain mission in Baghdad,” Bahrain Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Yousef Mahmoud said in a report carried by the official Bahrain News Agency.
The tiny Gulf state of Bahrain is a close American ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which played a support role during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
No word on Egyptian envoy's fate
There was still no word Tuesday on the fate of the kidnapped Egyptian envoy, al-Sherif. Witnesses said the abductors accosted him Saturday night in western Baghdad and shoved him into the trunk of a car after pistol-whipping him. They accused him of being an American spy, witnesses said.
Egypt announced last month that it would become the first Arab country to post an ambassador to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday offered Egypt the help of the United States in trying to gain the release of el-Sharif. In a telephone call to Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, “she offered any help that we might make available to the Egyptian government,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
“And we called for the diplomat’s early and speedy release, unharmed,” McCormack said.
He provided no details on what the United States might do to try to liberate the diplomat — if Cairo asked.
On Monday, a hard-line Sunni Arab cleric, Harith al-Dhari, condemned all kidnappings, calling them “a bad phenomenon that emerged after the occupation of Iraq by America and its allies.”
Al-Dhari heads the Association of Muslim Scholars, which is believed to have contacts with some insurgent groups. Sunni Arabs are estimated to make up about 20 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people and dominated Iraqi political life for generations until the collapse of Saddam’s regime in 2003.
Wooing the Sunni minority
Despite the ongoing violence, Iraq’s embattled government appeared to be making progress in moves to woo the country’s Sunni Arab minority, which forms the core of the insurgency. Many Sunnis boycotted the Jan. 30 election, meaning the community is not strongly represented in the new National Assembly.
On Monday, Dr. Adnan Al-Dulami, spokesman of the General Conference for Sunnis in Iraq, called on fellow Sunnis “to organize themselves to take part in the coming elections and to start to register their names at the offices of the electoral commission.”
Al-Dulami said Sunni clerics would soon issue a religious decree repeating the call. Clerics spearheaded the January boycott, saying any election held with U.S. and other foreign troops in the country would be invalid.
Following al-Dulaimi’s call, Humam Hammoudi, head of the committee to draft a new constitution, said 15 Sunnis had been approved to join the committee and would begin work Wednesday. The inclusion of Sunnis on the committee had been delayed because majority Shiites and Kurds had accused nominees of links to Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
In other violence on Tuesday:
- Gunmen ambushed a minibus taking seven Baghdad airport employees to work Tuesday, killing four women and wounding three men, police and hospital official said.
- One U.S. soldier was killed and two others wounded by a roadside bomb northeast of Baghdad. The military said the incident occurred Tuesday in Diyala province, but released no further details.
- A roadside bomb targeted a U.S. security convoy Tuesday near the Iranian Embassy, causing no U.S. casualties but injuring one Iraqi, officials said.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in insurgent attacks since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his new government, dominated by Shiites and Kurds, on April 28.
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