Al-Qaida declares war on Arabs

Growing violence in Iraq makes even Arab countries withdraw their envoys. The reputed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq said the country's security forces are as great an enemy as the Americans and brushed aside calls to abandon the insurgency.

According to the AP, gunmen killed four policemen and wounded at least nine more in separate attacks Wednesday.

In Baghdad, gunmen killed Capt. Hazim Jabbar, a member of the police special commando brigade, in the west of the city, police said. Jabbar had worked as a bodyguard for a consultant to former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, police said.

Three other police, including two commandoes, were killed in separate incidents in another west Baghdad neighborhood, police said. Nine police, including a brigadier general, were injured in a series attacks throughout the capital, officials said.

Also Wednesday, a member of the biggest Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade, was killed in an ambush in south Baghdad, police said. An Iraqi civilian who had been "cooperative" with the Americans was shot dead on his way to work north of Baghdad near Tarmiya, police added. The latest attacks occurred one day after two more diplomats from Muslim countries were ambushed in suspected kidnap attempts in Baghdad. Saturday night new Egypt's envoy to Baghdad was kidnapped in the Iraqi capital, and Bahrain's top envoy in Baghdad was wounded Tuesday. Insurgents also tried to kidnap Pakistani ambassador yesterday.

Bahrain's chief diplomat was slightly wounded but the Pakistani ambassador escaped injury. Both their governments said the envoys would leave the country.

Insurgents were pursuing diplomats to sow a climate of fear and "scare the other diplomatic missions so that they won't expand their presence in Iraq," Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kuba told reporters.

"This is a message from the terrorists to the Arab countries not to open embassies in Iraq and to prevent security, economic and political overtures to Iraq," said Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the parliamentary foreign relations committee, reports the AP.

Two Russian Embassy cars came under fire on the Baghdad airport road Sunday, the Interfax news agency reported in Moscow. Interfax quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko as saying the gunfire "was not aimed specifically at the Russian Embassy cars, but was scattered."

In an audiotape found Wednesday on the Web, a speaker said to be Al-Qaida in Iraq chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi insisted that Iraqi troops and police were as legitimate a target as the Americans. The comments appeared aimed at discouraging insurgents from entering talks with the Iraqi government.

"We announce that the Iraqi army is an army of apostates and mercenaries that has allied itself with the Crusaders and came to destroy Islam and fight Muslims. We will fight it," the speaker said.

It was impossible to determine whether the speaker was al-Zarqawi, although the voice sounded like ones on tapes U.S. officials have verified as coming from al-Zarqawi, notices the AP.

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