In the second brazen daylight abduction in as many days, kidnappers seized the director of an Iraqi state construction firm Saturday, blocking his car with two vehicles as he drove through an affluent neighborhood, officials said.
The abduction followed the kidnapping of a senior Egyptian diplomat as he emerged from a mosque in the capital on Friday. That victim, Mohamed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, was the first foreign diplomat among more than 70 people who have been kidnapped in Iraq since April.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, traveling in Syria, said his interim government was doing everything possible to secure Qutb's release, but he also strongly urged Egyptian authorities not to make any concessions to the kidnappers.
"The only way to deal with terrorists is to bring them to justice and close ranks, and we hope that the Egyptian government would act accordingly," Allawi said to journalists in Damascus. "We are going to win. . . . We are going to prevail and the terrorists will be brought to justice."
Qutb's kidnappers, who said they were holding him hostage somewhere in Iraq, have demanded that Egypt not provide Iraq with security assistance. Allawi visited Cairo this week and discussed the use of Egyptian troops to train Iraqi forces, but Egyptian officials said no agreement was reached.
Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said Friday in Cairo that Egypt did not plan to send troops or other military personnel to Iraq.
Egyptian officials said they had not been contacted by the kidnappers, who have been identified as a militant group called the Lions of Allah Brigade.
Few details were immediately known about the kidnapping of the Iraqi business official, Raad Adnan, who is general director of the Al-Mansour Contracting Co. The government-owned firm carries out construction contracts for public ministries. It was not known what demands, if any, Adnan's abductors had made.
Iraqi and foreign officials here widely believed the latest kidnappings, including the abduction of seven foreign drivers by militants on Wednesday, may have been inspired by the outcome of another case in which a kidnapped Filipino driver was released last week after his government agreed to withdraw its 52 troops from Iraq.
In Baghdad, the deputy foreign minister, Hamid Bayati, told journalists the Iraqi government was taking all possible measures to secure Qutb's release and was adding new security protection for foreign embassies.
"We are taking all measures to prevent the kidnapping of diplomats," Bayati said, adding that Iraq does not expect any foreign missions to withdraw in the wake of Friday's abduction or a rash of other attacks on Iraqis and foreigners.
The seven truck drivers were kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group that presented the hostages on a videotape aired by the al-Arabiya satellite television network. The victims are from India, Kenya and Egypt.
In the videotape and in other messages to news media, the group threatened to begin executing the drivers on Saturday night if their employer, a Kuwaiti firm, did not remove its foreign workers from the country.
In a subsequent message broadcast Friday, the group demanded the release of all Iraqi detainees in U.S. and Kuwaiti prisons and asked the company employing the hostages to pay compensation for people killed in the city of Fallujah, where U.S. Marines launched a major attack in April against urban insurgents.
The company, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co., said it was working to secure the release of the drivers and that negotiations were underway with the kidnappers, who call themselves the Holders of the Black Banners. A Gulf Link Transport spokesman said the company was optimistic the men would soon be released.
Despite the recent series of attacks, including the assassination of a Defense Ministry official and an attack on a convoy carrying the justice minister last week, Bayati said officials had seen an "improvement in the security situation," especially a decrease in car bombings, because of new security measures being put in place.
During Allawi's trip to Syria on a regional tour, the prime minister and Syrian officials agreed to form a committee to improve security along their 375-mile border, which U.S. and Iraqi officials say has been a crossing point for foreign fighters entering Iraq.
Also early Saturday, a U.S. Marine died of wounds he received Friday in a shootout with attackers in Anbar province, military officials said. The victim's name was not released.
Later in the day, gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the police chief for West Baghdad, killing three of his bodyguards.