A group in Iraq linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network announced today that it has killed two Algerian diplomats who were abducted in Baghdad last week, continuing a campaign against envoys of what it calls "devil countries" supporting the United States.
The group, called al Qaeda in Iraq and headed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, issued an Internet statement announcing the "execution" of Ali Belaroussi, 62, the head of the Algerian mission in Iraq, and Azzedine Belkadi, 47, a diplomatic attache. Earlier this month, the group said it killed Egyptian envoy Ihab Sherif, 51, who was kidnapped July 2. His body has not been found.
There was no immediate confirmation in Iraq of the group's latest claim. But the office of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika later said the two diplomats had been killed, without specifying the source of the information.
The killings were among nearly two dozen deaths that were announced today amid continuing insurgent violence in Iraq. Among those reported killed were five U.S. soldiers.
A U.S. military statement issued early today said four soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb at 7:15 p.m. Sunday in southwest Baghdad. The statement said the four were members of Task Force Baghdad but provided no other information on the incident.
A separate statement said one soldier was killed and five others were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near a combat patrol late this morning in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad. The soldiers were members of Task Force Liberty based in Tikrit, the military said.
In today's deadliest single attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Baghdad's Numaa hospital, killing at least five people and wounding 10, Reuters news agency reported. The agency quoted police sources as saying the bombing targeted security forces at the gate to the hospital.
In addition, mortar attacks on Baghdad's main bus station killed at least two people and wounded 20 others, the Associated Press reported. In a separate attack in Baghdad, gunmen killed one man and wounded two women in an attack on a car carrying Ministry of Trade employees. In Tikrit, one person was killed and seven injured in an attack on a truck carrying Iraqis employed at a U.S. base.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said today that seven Iraqi soldiers were killed Tuesday when attackers opened fire on them as they were guarding a water plant in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad.
In announcing the deaths of the two Algerian diplomats today, al Qaeda in Iraq said it had "executed the sentence of the Sharia Court to kill all infidels," according to a translation by the Washington-based SITE Institute.
The statement, posted on an Islamic Web site, said the two represented a government that rejects Islamic Sharia law, which al Qaeda and other militant groups seek to impose, and that has waged war against militant Muslims in Algeria. It charged that Algeria "is siding with the Jews and Christians" and "sent these two to establish the Jews and Christians' existence in the Land of Two Rivers [Iraq]."
The statement warned that Iraq "is not safe for Allah's enemies, but it is hell for all nonbelievers."
Zarqawi's group also indicated that it rejects public criticism from other Muslims of its attacks on Arab diplomats, noting that "everybody was furious when we captured these two." The statement added, "People tell us to push out the converters without executing them. We say this is no good by the rules of Allah."
Belaroussi and Belkadi were abducted at gunpoint July 21 in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood. In a video posted on the Internet Tuesday, they were shown blindfolded as they stated their names and addresses. A statement accompanying the video said the "Sharia Court" of al Qaeda in Iraq had sentenced the two men to death. It said this would be the fate of the "ambassadors and envoys of the rest of the infidel converted governments," who were considered "legal targets . . . wherever they are."