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Militants kill official, seize 2 Jordanians in Iraq
Updated: 2004-07-27 09:13

Guerrillas killed eight people in Iraq on Monday including a senior Interior Ministry official gunned down near his home, and two Jordanian drivers became the latest foreigners seized in a spiralling hostage crisis.

But an Egyptian diplomat abducted last week said his captors had freed him and he was safe at Egypt's embassy in Baghdad.

A surge in attacks, including two car bombings, marked a fresh security challenge to Iraq's new interim government before a major political gathering expected this week.

Iraqi National Guard recruits fire AK-47 rifles during basic training exercises held on a U.S. Army base in Baqouba, Iraq, July 26, 2004. The class will graduate Tuesday after completing a five-day training program. [AP]
The U.S. military said a suicide car bomb exploded outside an American base near the northern city of Mosul, killing an Iraqi woman, her child and an Iraqi guard.

In Baghdad, gunmen shot Mussab al-Awadi, a top official in charge of tribal affairs, as he left his house, an Interior Ministry source said. Two bodyguards were also killed.

Gunmen also opened fire on five women cleaners for U.S. firm Bechtel in the southern city of Basra, killing two, one of the survivors said. The women were waiting for a bus to take them to work when they were attacked.

"I pretended to be dead so they didn't shoot me. I was covered in the blood of my friends," said an emotional Montaha Khalil, who was unhurt.


Guerrillas have stepped up suicide car bombings, assassinations and kidnappings since a brief lull when the interim government took over from U.S.-led occupiers on June 28.

Police said no one was hurt in a car bombing in Baghdad, which coincided with several mortar attacks that wounded one person. A bomb exploded under a car in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, wounding several people.

Freed Egyptian diplomat Mohamed Mamdouh Qutb said he was seized because his captors had objected to Egypt hosting a visit last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

"No deals were made," said Qutb, the first diplomat to be seized in a wave of hostage-taking that has hit Iraq since April as militants press demands designed to undermine U.S.-led forces and the interim government.

Qutb, third secretary at Egypt's embassy in Baghdad, was snatched as he left a mosque in the Iraqi capital last Friday.

He told Reuters by telephone he had been well treated.

Guerrillas have stepped up their campaign of hostage-taking to increase pressure on foreign troops and companies to leave.

The Philippines withdrew its troops from Iraq this month to spare the life of a Filipino hostage.

The interim government is heavily reliant on some 160,000 mostly U.S. foreign troops until it builds up its own forces.


Militants kidnapped two Jordanian drivers and were threatening them with execution, a source close to the company they work for said on Monday.

The source said the militants had given the company 72 hours to stop working with the U.S. military in Iraq.

The two were seized when they left a U.S. base near Qaim, close to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

A video tape obtained by Associated Press Television News showed the two Jordanians sitting on a floor, while six armed, masked militants stood behind them. One carried a sword.

The group called itself the Mujahideen Corps.

Arabic television channel Al Jazeera showed identity cards and video footage of what appeared to be two Pakistanis seized in Iraq at the weekend by a group which threatened to kill them and an Iraqi taken with them.

Dozens of foreigners have been taken hostage since April. Some have been freed, but at least six have been killed by their captors, four of them by beheading.

Despite the violence and hostage-taking, Iraq has said it will push ahead later this week with a national conference designed to give Iraqis a real say in how their country is run.

The United Nations has pushed for a delay, saying more time is needed to prepare for an event that will bring together 1,000 Iraqis to select a 100-member National Council to oversee the interim government until elections next year.

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