Sat, Dec 31, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Al-Qaeda pledges to execute kidnapped Sudanese five

AP , CAIRO

Al-Qaeda in Iraq on Thursday threatened to kill five kidnapped employees of the Sudanese embassy in Baghdad within two days unless Khartoum removes its diplomatic mission from Iraq.

The group, which has kidnapped and killed a string of Arab diplomatic personnel this year, said in a statement on a Web forum where al-Qaeda in Iraqi frequently posts messages that it had snatched the five Sudanese, who it said included diplomats.

The claim could not be immediately confirmed. It included no photos of the five and did not identify them. The statement did not say when the Sudanese were kidnapped.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry reported last Saturday that six of its embassy employees were kidnapped, including a diplomat -- the mission's second secretary, Abdel Moneam Mohammad Tom. It was not immediately clear if the al-Qaeda statement was referring to the same group.

Later on Thursday, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite channel showed footage it said it had received from the kidnappers, showing the five Sudanese sitting on chairs and talking to the camera, but no audio could be heard. The videotape also showed ID documents from the Sudanese embassy, but the names could not be discerned.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese engineer was abducted on Thursday by gunmen, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said. Camile Nassif Tannous, who works for the Schneider engineering firm, was kidnapped "in Iraq in the past few hours," the ministry said, giving no further details.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tannous' kidnapping.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq set a deadline for today for Sudan to "announce clearly that it is cutting its relations" with the Iraqi government, and "is closing its embassy in Baghdad as well as withdrawing all of its representatives."

"Otherwise, this government will bear the responsibility of presenting their diplomats as sacrifices," the statement said.

The group said it had previously warned Arab nations of its "war against what is called the diplomatic missions in Baghdad," adding that the governments had ignored it, "still getting closer to the infidel Crusaders and Jews."

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has kidnapped and killed a string of Arab diplomats and embassy employees in a campaign to scare Arab governments from setting up full diplomatic missions in Iraq -- a step that is seen as a sign of support for the new Iraqi government.

In July, al-Qaeda abducted the top Egyptian envoy in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sherif, and two Algerian diplomats. It later announced they had been killed. The group also snatched two Moroccan embassy employees in June and said that it had sentenced them to death, though it never stated whether it carried out the sentences.

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