Ray of hope: Egyptian ambassador in Iraq probably still alive

Egypt's envoy in Baghdad allegedly killed by al-Qaida can be still alive, claims owner of a mobile company in Iraq.

The Egyptian owner of a mobile phone network in Iraq, billionaire Naguib Sawiris, said Wednesday he was convinced that Egypt's top envoy Ihab al-Sherif, believed slain by his abductors, is most likely alive, because of information he has obtained, reports the AP.

Sawiris told The Associated Press that he shared this information with the Egyptian government, but refused to say what it was or where he got it from.

"We have information suggesting that the Egyptian ambassador is still alive and has not been killed," Sawiris told the pro-government al-Gomhouria newspaper, in remarks published Wednesday that were later confirmed by The Associated Press.

Sawiris' giant telecommunications Orascom heads a consortium operating a mobile phone service in central Iraq, and he is reportedly considered the richest man in Egypt.

"These people are Muslims who kidnapped him," and they would follow the principle of "honoring the dead in burying him," he said. Muslims honor their deceased by burying them soon after death, traditionally before sunset.

"If they had a body they should and could give it back. Why don't they?" Sawiris asked.

A foreign ministry spokesman refused to comment on Sawiris remarks, says the AP.

But as Reuters reports, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted as saying there was a slim chance that Ihab el-Sherif is not dead.

Ihab al-Sherif is believed to have been killed after al-Qaida in Iraq led by Jordanian mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed on July 7 that it murdered him because Egypt intended to restore full diplomatic relations as a sign of support for Iraq's new government.

The Egyptian government said it had confirmed al-Sherif's death from several sources in Iraq, but no body has been found, nor a video showing his killing. The militant group that claimed to have killed al-Sherif has so far only exhibited a short video showing the blindfolded al-Sherif giving his name, address and job title.

Moreover, Iraqi Interior Minister Banyan Jabr said on Monday that the assassins of the head of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Iraq, Ihab El-Sherif, have been arrested and put on trial, reports Egypt Election Daily News.

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