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Gunmen Kidnap Algerian Envoy in Baghdad


Gunmen in Iraq have kidnapped Algeria's top envoy, the second kidnapping of a high-ranking Arab diplomat in the country in less than a month.

An Algerian diplomat, Abdel Wahab Fellah, tells VOA that his mission chief Ali Belaroussi and another embassy attaché were riding in a car in the Mansour district of Baghdad, when two carloads of gunmen abducted them in broad daylight.

Mansour is home to many foreign embassies.

Mr. Fellah says he was at the Oman embassy, waiting for the envoy and the attaché to arrive, when he saw gunmen pull them out of their Toyota Landcruiser and take them. He says everything happened so quickly, there was nothing he could do, except to call the police.

According to Iraqi interior minister sources, the kidnappers' cars had license plates registered in Anbar province. Anbar province includes the Sunni cities of Ramadi and Fallujah and has long been the hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.

Earlier this month, the head of the Egyptian mission in Iraq, Ihab al-Sherif, was abducted by gunmen in a western Baghdad neighborhood. Two days later, gunmen attacked vehicles carrying diplomats from Bahrain and Pakistan. The events prompted some embassies in Baghdad to close or to reduce their staff.

The group al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zaqawi, later claimed that it had killed the Egyptian envoy. His body has not yet been found.

The Iraqi government says attacks on diplomats are aimed at dissuading Arab countries from raising their diplomatic representation and trying to isolate the Iraqi government.

Meanwhile, four Sunni Arab members, who walked out of a committee drafting Iraq's constitution, continued their boycott for a second day. The men say they will not return to the panel until their demands are met, including the launch of an international investigation into the murders of two of their colleagues in a drive-by shooting Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the head of the constitutional drafting team, Sheikh Houmam al-Hammoudi, said that a final draft would be finished by the first of August. But the Sunni boycott is casting doubt on whether the drafting committee can meet that self-imposed deadline.

One boycotting member warned on Thursday that the charter's legitimacy would be questioned if the committee, made up of mostly Shi'ite and Kurdish legislators, submitted the draft constitution without Sunni approval.

A Shi'ite member on the drafting committee, Honain Kadoo, says the loss of Sunni members on the committee is causing serious concern.

"I hope they come back again and withdraw this decision because participation in the constitution drafting committee is very important. The constitution is not for a specific sector or community in Iraq. It is for all the Iraqi people, so they must have an important role in writing the constitution," he said.

Fifteen unelected Sunni Arabs were added to the drafting committee last month to expand Sunni participation in Iraq's efforts to create a broad-based constitutional government by the end of the year.

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