Iraqi insurgents killed a top Interior Ministry official Monday and kidnapped another two Jordanian drivers. But late Monday, Eygptian authorities said an Egyptian diplomat abducted on Friday has been released. In the midst of unrelenting violence, about 1,000 Iraqi politicians are preparing to open a national conference later in the week to determine the make-up of the interim assembly.
Iraqi insurgents identify their latest hostages, two Jordanian drivers. In a videotape, six masked gunmen demand that the company the men work for stop any collaboration with U.S. forces in Iraq.
In other statements, the insurgents have demanded that foreign companies leave the country. At least a dozen other foreigners are being held captive by Iraqi insurgents. But late Monday, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said a diplomat abducted on Friday was released late Monday unharmed. Militants had taken him to warn Egypt not to help Iraq's new security forces.
Iraq expert Amatzia Baram sees a variety of motives behind the kidnappings, depending on which groups are responsible. Mostly, he says, their goal is to undermine Iraq's reconstruction and any role of foreigners in that effort.
"What they would like to do is make everybody leave Iraq - all the Western institutions, not only the American army, the coalition forces but all foreign workers," he said. "Anybody who is building Iraq should go away so Iraq would disintegrate."
Mr. Baram, of the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington, adds that some insurgent groups are also using abductions for ransom to help finance their terrorist operations.
Violence targeting Iraqis has not subsided either. Earlier, terrorists killed a top Interior Ministry official as he was leaving his home in Baghdad. Mussab al-Awadi handled tribal affairs in the ministry. Insurgents also killed two female workers on their way to the British-operated airport in the southern city of Basra.
Suicide bombers also targeted an American base in northern Iraq, killing three Iraqis, including a woman and child.
The U.S. military is trying to keep a fairly low profile since the transfer of sovereignty earlier in July. Iraqi forces are taking on a more prominent role, but still do not have the numbers or capability to take over security operations.
In Brussels, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says a decision could be made this week to give the trans-Atlantic alliance a significant role in training Iraqi forces. NATO members France and Germany, however, have said they will not send troops to Iraq.
In other news, political wrangling is clouding preparations for a national conference that is scheduled to open later in the week.
About 1,000 tribal, ethnic and regional leaders are due to select a 100-member national council that is expected to map out the framework for elections later in the year.