Iraqi forces searched on Wednesday for a United Arab Emirates diplomat kidnapped in Baghdad, and a top official in the Persian Gulf country said the attack raised concerns about Iraq’s widespread insecurity.
Two roadside bombs and a drive-by shooting, meanwhile, targeted Iraqi forces in Baghdad on Wednesday, wounding two soldiers and three policemen. The bodies of two Iraqi men, handcuffed and shot in the head, were found in western Baghdad.
On Tuesday, violence across the country left at least 36 people dead, as Iraq’s prime minister-designate announced he was close to forming a new government before a May 22 deadline. Other groups claimed there’s a long way to go.
'This is painful,' UAE official says
Naji Rashid al-Nuaimi, 28, the diplomat, was kidnapped by gunmen Tuesday night while leaving the home of the United Arab Emirates’ cultural affairs attache in Baghdad’s Mansour district, said Interior Ministry police Col. Ali Rashid.
The gunmen, riding in three cars, shot al-Nuaimi’s Sudanese security guard, Bedawi Ahmed Ibrahim, who later died at a Baghdad hospital, Rashid said.
“We have some leads, including descriptions of the captors and the cars they were driving,” Rashid said. “We are making this a top priority since the captive is a diplomat. We believe the motive for the abduction was political, not criminal.”
In Dubai, the United Arab Emirates government confirmed the kidnapping, but declined to provide details.
Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the kidnapping was difficult for his country, and he blamed it on widespread security problems in Iraq, including the insurgency and rising sectarian violence.
“This is painful,” Sheik Abdullah told the pro-government Gulf News Wednesday. “We also understand that the situation in Iraq is unstable. This makes us more concerned about Iraq and the necessity to unite efforts at the Arab and international levels to restore stability and help Iraq return to the Arab and international fold.”
Earlier abductions of Arab officials
At least six other Arab embassy workers have been kidnapped since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, some by al-Qaida in Iraq to undercut support for the U.S.-backed government among Arab countries.
In July 2005, al-Qaida in Iraq kidnapped and killed two Algerian and one Egyptian diplomat. Al-Qaida said it killed the Egyptian because Cairo intended to install a full ambassador in Iraq.
Arab states have since then been hesitant to send ambassadors to Baghdad.
Two Moroccan embassy workers, driver Abderrahim Boualam and employee Abdelkrim el Mouhafidi, disappeared in October 2005 while driving from Jordan. Al-Qaida in Iraq said it had kidnapped the men, and in November the terror group said it had sentenced them to death. They have not been heard from since.
Senior envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain have managed to escape kidnap attempts. More than 40 diplomatic missions are currently in Iraq.
Cabinet 'mostly complete'
Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki said, meanwhile, that his Cabinet was “mostly complete” after meeting with deputies from the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance party, which controls 130 seats in the 275-member parliament.
Any final agreement appeared to hinge on whether the largest Shiite bloc in parliament could strike a deal with the largest Sunni Arab bloc over the interior and defense ministries.
At least one Western diplomat in Baghdad who was well informed about the negotiations told The Associated Press that he believed al-Maliki would name a full Cabinet by Monday’s constitutionally mandated deadline. He did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks.
But Sunnis — represented by their dominant bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front — have pressed for a complete deal. They have insisted on the Defense Ministry, which controls the army, to offset the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which controls the police.
Khalaf al-Ilyan, a senior deputy with the Accordance Front, said that Sunni Arabs would insist on the portfolio “because we represent half of the society.”
Many Sunni deputies have also expressed disappointment over perceptions that they may not get the ministries they expected after turning out in large numbers for the Dec. 15 elections.
“There is a wide gap between what was promised and what was realized, and this is a situation that affects the security of the entire country,” said Accordance Front deputy Dhafer al-Ani.