A July 27 article said two cleaning women killed in the Iraqi town of Basra were employed by the U.S.-based Bechtel Corp. A spokesman for Bechtel said they were not employed by the company. (Published 7/29/04)
A senior Interior Ministry official was ambushed and killed along with two bodyguards on Monday as he left his home for work, officials said. At least five other Iraqis were killed, and several foreign workers taken hostage were shown in videotapes released Monday.
Late Monday, an Egyptian diplomat held hostage by militants over the weekend was released in good condition, Egyptian officials said, according to the Associated Press. Mohamed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, a top diplomat at the Egyptian mission, was abducted Friday as he was leaving a mosque in the capital.
"He has been released and we have received him," said Badr Din de-Souki, at the Egyptian mission in Baghdad, the AP reported.
The dead Iraqi official, Mussab Awadi, was deputy chief in the tribal affairs department of the Interior Ministry. At least six ranking Iraqi government officials have been assassinated this year, in addition to a number of local councilmen, a local head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, the dean of law school at Mosul University, an oil company official and dozens of security personnel.
Fighters opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq have declared that they consider anyone who collaborates with the United States a target, although some of the killings apparently have been motivated by individual or tribal grievances. The threat of violence has forced officials to surround themselves with security guards, who have in turn become targets.
An Iraqi woman, her child and a guard died Monday when a man driving a maroon Chevrolet Caprice detonated explosives at the entrance to a U.S. military camp in Mosul, 220 miles north of Baghdad, according to a U.S. military spokesman. The car was packed with rockets and mortars, but many of the armaments did not explode, the spokesman said.
In southern Iraq, four cleaning women were gunned down, two killed and two wounded, as they waited for a bus to take them to work at a British base in Basra, where they were employed by the U.S.-based Bechtel Corp.
"I pretended to be dead so they didn't shoot me. I was covered in the blood of my friends," a survivor, Montaha Khalil, told the Reuters news agency in Basra.
[A mortar attack early Tuesday in a residential area of Baghdad, near the compound housing the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy, killed an Iraqi civilian and wounded another, Reuters reported.]
The tally of kidnapped foreign workers also rose Monday. Two Jordanians were shown in a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television. The kidnappers threatened to kill the men, both drivers, in 72 hours unless their employer, a Jordanian construction and catering company, halted work in Iraq. In separate videotapes received by Arab television networks, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi were shown being held by men who made similar demands. The Pakistani government had said Raja Azad, 49, an engineer, and Sajad Naeem, 29, a driver, were reported missing over the weekend.
The kidnappings, aimed at undermining support for the U.S.-led military presence in Iraq, have continued after the Philippine government withdrew its contingent of 51 troops earlier than planned after a kidnapped Filipino truck driver, Angelo de la Cruz, was threatened with execution.
In Manila, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo defended her decision in an address to the Philippine Congress on Monday.
"I cannot apologize for being a protector of my people," she said. "Sacrificing Angelo de la Cruz would have been a pointless provocation. It would have put the lives of 1.5 million Filipinos in the Middle East at risk by making them a part of the war.
The U.S. government and its allies in Iraq have charged that the decision encouraged kidnappers to take more hostages.
"The Philippine government succumbed to blackmail," Labeed M. Abbawi, Iraq's deputy foreign minister, said over the weekend. "This is not good for us, or even for the Philippine government. This sets a precedent from which these elements get encouragement. Immediately after that, these groups starting issuing a lot of threat."
Seven foreign truck drivers -- three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian -- were seized last week. The kidnappers said in videotapes released Monday that they would extend the deadline for talks. The group has demanded that the Kuwaiti company employing them stop working in Iraq.
Six hostages have been killed since April, at least three of them by beheading.