Russian diplomat killed and four kidnapped in Baghdad

A Russian diplomat was killed and four others were abducted in Baghdad yesterday. The victims, who have not been named, were travelling in a diplomatic car which was ambushed near the Russian embassy in the Mansour district of Baghdad.

Police sources said gunmen in three cars blocked a road and opened fire on the embassy vehicle after the victims were spotted buying food. Foreign ministry officials in Moscow said that the five were "workers of the Russian foreign service who were performing their official duties".

After the attack, TV footage showed a pool of blood near a white 4x4 vehicle with diplomatic licence plates and a bullet-riddled sign saying "Russian Embassy" in English and Arabic.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russian officials said that they were working with Iraqi authorities to secure the release of the captives.

At least 439 foreigners, including several diplomats, have been kidnapped in Iraq since the invasion three years ago. Last month a United Arab Emirates diplomat was seized by gunmen in Mansour and held for more than two weeks before being released unharmed.

Other kidnap victims have been less lucky: last July two Algerian diplomats and an Egyptian colleague were killed after being abducted. In October, two employees of the Moroccan embassy were kidnapped and later killed.

Al-Qa'ida in Iraq claimed responsibility for all five murders.

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