Gunmen kidnapped a Lebanese-American businessman -- the second US citizen seized this week in Baghdad -- and militants released a tape showing the beheading of an Iraqi officer as a warning to those who deal with "the infidel" Americans. An unknown group claimed it beheaded three Iraqi National Guardsmen.
Elsewhere, a US soldier was killed and another wounded Wednesday in a roadside bombing 20km south of the capital. A suicide driver detonated his vehicle at a checkpoint near Baghdad airport, injuring nine Iraqis and prompting US troops to close the main route into the city for hours.
US jets were in action again late Wednesday over Fallujah, striking insurgent targets in the northeastern and southern parts of the city where US forces are said to be gearing up for a major assault. Residents reported fierce exchanges of fire after midnight on the edge of the city.
Gunmen killed a senior Oil Ministry official, Hussein Ali al-Fattal, after he left his house Wednesday in the Yarmouk district of western Baghdad, police said. Al-Fattal was the general manager of a state-owned company that distributes petroleum by-products.
Al-Jazeera television broadcast a threat by an unspecified armed group to strike oil installations and government buildings if the Americans launch an all-out assault on Fallujah. The report was accompanied by a videotape showing about 20 armed men brandishing various weapons including a truck-mounted machine gun.
The violence served as grim reminder of Iraq's rapidly deteriorating security situation, which US President Bush must address now that he has won his long electoral contest against Senator John Kerry, who conceded defeat Wednesday.
Radim Sadeq, an American of Lebanese origin who worked for a mobile phone company, was grabbed about midnight Tuesday when he answered the door of his home in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood, officials said. No group claimed responsibility.
It was the second abduction this week in Mansour, where many foreign companies are based. On Monday, gunmen stormed the two-story compound of a Saudi company, abducting six people, including an unidentified American, a Nepalese, a Filipino and three Iraqis, two of whom were later released. No claim has been made for the kidnappings.
More than 170 foreigners have been kidnapped and more than 30 of them killed in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime fell in April last year. At least six of the foreigners were beheaded by followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda.