A senior Sudanese diplomat said on Friday that his country closed its embassy in Baghdad in an effort to win the release of six kidnapped employees -- including one diplomat.
"A statement was issued by the Sudanese government to close the embassy in Iraq to win the release of our kidnapped citizens," Charge d'affairs Mohamed Ahmed Khalil told reporters. He added that the embassy's 12 employees would leave tomorrow.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq had threatened on Thursday to kill five Sudanese yesterday unless the country removed its diplomatic mission from Iraq.
The Sudanese Foreign Ministry reported on Dec. 24 that six of its embassy employees were kidnapped -- including 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 Thursday, the Qatari-based al-Jazeera satellite channel showed footage it said it received from the kidnappers, showing the five Sudanese sitting on chairs, talking to the camera, but no audio was heard. The videotape also showed ID documents from the Sudanese Embassy, but the names could not be discerned.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq set a deadline of yesterday 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 terror 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.
The abduction of the Lebanese engineer came as another Lebanese kidnapped in Iraq was released.