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Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Fatally Shot by Gunmen - 2004-06-12

Gunmen fatally shot a senior deputy foreign minister in Iraq's interim government on Saturday, as he traveled to his Baghdad office. The attack follows a recent assassination attempt on another member of the interim government.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry says Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Salih Kubba was on his way to work, traveling through a neighborhood just north of Baghdad, when gunmen drove up behind his car and opened fire.

The assailants then fired several more rounds into the vehicle as they sped past. The wounded minister was rushed to the hospital, but he died soon after arrival.

In a written statement to the media, Foreign Ministry officials called the attack a criminal operation against a man who symbolized honesty, sincerity and patriotism. The ambush came on the heels of Wednesday's drive-by shooting of a car carrying the Iraqi deputy health minister, Ammar al-Safar. The minister escaped unharmed.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Mr. Kubba was a U.S.-educated Shiite Muslim, who climbed to power in Saddam Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime. The 60-year-old diplomat was once Iraq's ambassador to China, and also served as an advisor to Saddam's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz.

On June 1, Mr. Kubba was appointed to be one of several interim deputy foreign ministers in the new Iraqi caretaker government, which is to pave the way for elections in January.

One of Baghdad's most influential Shiite religious leaders, Imam Haji Abass Rihda, says it is up to Iraqi citizens to help ensure that those elections can be held on time.

The Imam says this transition period should be a time of peace, so that the government can move toward its goal of holding free elections. He says it is the duty of all Iraqis to be watchful, and prevent any group or people from derailing that process.

Meanwhile, seven Turkish construction workers, kidnapped by an unknown group in the restive town of Fallujah last week, were freed Saturday by their captors. Turkish officials say they were released unharmed and in good health.

But Lebanese officials in Beirut say a Lebanese man and two Iraqis recently abducted in Iraq have been shot and killed. Another Lebanese man kidnapped at the same time is still missing.