BAGHDAD, Iraq – The country’s most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats Friday to flee Iraq after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees. Insurgents killed 11 Iraqi security troops and an American soldier in separate attacks.
The warning came in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq, which also claimed responsibility for the July kidnap-slaying of two envoys from Algeria and one from Egypt as well as the abduction and beheading of many foreign hostages.
On Thursday, another Internet statement attributed to al-Qaida said the two Moroccans had been condemned to death. There was no indication Friday that they had been killed.
“We are renewing our threat to those so-called diplomatic missions who have insisted on staying in Baghdad and have not yet realized the repercussions of such a challenge to the will of the mujahedeen,” Friday’s statement said. “Let them know that there is no difference in our judgment between the head of a diplomatic mission and the lowest-level employee.”
The al-Qaida threat appeared to be aimed at undermining support for the U.S.-backed Iraqi government within the Arab and Islamic worlds.
The Moroccans, driver Abderrahim Boualam and embassy staff member Abdelkrim el-Mouhafidi, disappeared Oct. 20 while driving to Baghdad from Jordan, where they had gone to pick up their paychecks.
Also on Friday, the U.S. military announced it killed five senior al-Qaida figures during an Oct. 29 airstrike against three buildings in Husaybah, a town near the Syrian border that is a major infiltration route for foreign fighters and would-be suicide bombers entering the country.
The five dead included at least one North African; the al-Qaida were holding a strategy meeting when the airstrike occurred, the U.S. statement added.
Iraq was relatively quiet Friday as the majority Shiite Muslim community began celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Sunnis began the three-day holiday Thursday.
Still, the country was not free of violence.
Insurgents fired mortars at an Iraqi police checkpoint near Buhriz, a Sunni Arab stronghold 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, then stormed the position firing from eight vehicles, police said. Six policemen were killed and 10 were wounded, according to officials.
An American soldier from Task Force Baghdad was fatally wounded Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy in east Baghdad, the military said. Another soldier died Thursday near Talil, 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, apparently of non-hostile causes, the military said. The number of U.S. military service members who have died since the war began in 2003 has reached 2,042, according to an Associated Press count.
Despite the security crisis, families turned out in parks around the capital, putting aside their fears to celebrate the Eid holiday. In the Shiite district of Sadr City, children lined up for rides at small amusement parks. Security by police and local militias remained tight to protect people from bombs and drive-by shootings.
“We cannot fully enjoy Eid because of all the explosions we hear,” said Karar al-Aboudi, 25, owner of a stall near one park. “We have no reason to celebrate under occupation and terrorism. We pray to God that in the next Eid, our country will be stable and free.”