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Egyptian Diplomat Speaks After Being Freed by Iraqi Kidnappers - 2004-07-27

An Egyptian diplomat kidnapped last week in Iraq is back at work, saying his abductors did not have any material demands and had treated him well.

Mohammed Mamdou Helmi Qutb, the third-ranking Egyptian diplomat in Iraq, was released late Monday by members of the Lions of Allah Brigade, who had kidnapped him last Friday from outside a Baghdad mosque.

In a short speech outside the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. Qutb described the circumstances surrounding his kidnapping. He praised the Iraqi and Egyptian governments, as well as religious and tribal leaders, for helping to negotiate his release.

A military expert at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, General Mohamed Kadry Sa'id, said that kidnappings in Iraq are no longer a means to an end, but are becoming a routine way to attract attention and gain power.

"I mean, they kidnap people, and then you find [the] Foreign Ministry and important people negotiate with them. So this puts them on the TV and so on. It is a power show in my view," he said. "And it has become a standard procedure. They kidnap them and then they go through some negotiations."

Mr. Qutb's kidnappers had said they were protesting plans about Egypt's possible involvement in Iraq made during Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's recent visit to Cairo.

But Egyptian officials quickly reiterated that Egypt would send no troops or military officials to Iraq and was engaged only in reconstruction efforts there.

Harming Mr. Qutb would have been a risky step for the kidnappers to take, says General Sa'id, because it could have turned a generally sympathetic Egyptian public opinion against them.

"They take care of the public opinion in Egypt," said Mr. Qutb. "This is I think an important point [to] them. I mean if this man was killed I think the majority of Egyptians will feel sad and they will think again about the dilemma between resistance and insurgency, which until now unfortunately is in the balance of resistance. So if they killed the Egyptian they would lose the Egyptian public. But now they win something."

Mr. Qutb told reporters that although in the beginning his abductors threatened to kill him if he caused them trouble, later they apologized and even gave him gifts such as a dagger and prayer beads. A video aired on al-Jazeera satellite TV station showed the Egyptian diplomat shaking hands with his abductors and kissing one good-bye.