BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (search) urged Egypt (search) on Saturday to stand fast in the face of the kidnapping of one of its diplomats and ignore militants' demand that it abandon any plans to lend security assistance to Iraq.
"It is time for us to close ranks to fight terrorism. There is no way to budge to terrorists and give them what they want," Allawi said in Damascus, Syria. "The only way to deal with terrorism is to promote justice and to close ranks, and we hope Egypt and the Egyptian government will act accordingly."
Allawi spoke just hours after gunmen dressed as police snatched the leader of an Iraqi government-owned construction company.
The brazen attacks suggested insurgents were growing bolder, particularly since kidnappers scored a stunning victory by forcing the Philippines to withdraw troops to save the life of a Filipino truck driver last week. The violence also cast a pall over Allawi's tour through the region to persuade reluctant Arab and Muslim countries to send troops here.
A U.S. soldier with the 1st Infantry Division was killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq on Saturday, Army spokesman Master Sgt. Robert Powell (search) said Sunday.
Powell said the soldier was escorting a fuel convoy near Beiji, about 90 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, when the bomb went off and died later of wounds suffered in the blast. Another soldier was hospitalized in stable condition.
Also Saturday, a group representing itself as al-Qaida's European branch posted a statement on an Islamic Web site saying Australia must withdraw its troops from Iraq "before your country turns to pools of blood." The same group has issued threats to Italy, Bulgaria and Poland in the past week.
Militants grabbed Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, described as the third-ranking diplomat at the Egyptian mission here, as he walked out of a mosque Friday. In a video released by "The Lions of Allah Brigade," the militants said they had taken Qutb to deter Egypt from sending troops.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit appealed to the kidnappers Saturday to show mercy and said his government was working quietly to free Qutb and an Egyptian truck driver held by other militants.
"We will not abandon Egyptian citizens in that way," he said, adding that "it is a very sensitive situation."
Early Saturday, gunmen grabbed Raad Adnan, general director of Al-Mansour Contracting Co., in an audacious daylight operation in southeastern Baghdad.
The kidnappers, wearing police uniforms, set up a fake checkpoint in the Zaieuna neighborhood and stopped Adnan's car, taking him and his driver hostage, according to police Sgt. Ahmed Ismael. Adnan's driver was quickly released, Ismael said.
Al-Mansour is a government-owned construction company that does building work for Iraq's ministries. Adnan, a construction engineer, was a member of the Baath party and helped build some of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces.
The 15-month-old insurgency, punctuated by the kidnappings, almost daily bombings, attacks and sabotage, has badly damaged Iraq's efforts to rebuild the country after years of war and sanctions.
On Saturday, gunmen in three cars attacked a convoy carrying west Baghdad's police chief as he passed near the town of Mahmoudiya south of Baghdad. Two bodyguards were killed, but the police chief, Brig. Sabah Fahad, escaped unharmed, said Mahmoudiya hospital director, Dr. Dawoud al-Taie.
Attackers in two cars opened fire on a group of policemen at a checkpoint in the al-Shurta district of Baghdad on Saturday, injuring seven policemen, the Interior Ministry said.
A rocket exploded in the downtown Jubairya district in northern city of Samarra killing one man and injuring three other civilians early Saturday, police Maj. Sadoun al-Dulaimi said.
In volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad, a U.S. Marine died Saturday of wounds sustained during "security and stability operations" Friday, the military said.
And late Friday, saboteurs set off two explosions on an oil pipeline about 12 miles south of Samarra, police Capt. Khaled Abdul-Amir said Saturday. The pipeline stretches about 124 miles from al-Dora oil refinery in Baghdad to Beiji, north of Samarra. The extent of the damage was unclear.
Allawi was defiant in the face of new violence.
"We are not going to give up. We are going to win, we assure you. We will prevail and the terrorists will be brought to justice," Allawi said Saturday.
But Qutb's kidnapping already has hurt the government.
Egypt said earlier this week it would consider sending troops here after Iraqis restored calm, but after Qutb's abduction, Aboul Gheit said that "sending troops or Egyptian military personnel to Iraq is not an issue on the table at all for Egypt."
Iraqi officials said Saturday they were working furiously to secure Qutb's release.
"We will spare no effort to free the Egyptian diplomat," Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Hamed al-Bayati said.
Meanwhile, officials continued to work to free three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian held by a different militant group.
That group, "The Holders of the Black Banners," demanded Wednesday that the truck drivers' company stop doing business in Iraq and their countries withdraw their citizens or it would begin beheading hostages Saturday night.
In a new video Friday, it upped those demands, saying their employer must pay compensation for those killed by U.S. forces in the city of Fallujah and demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees in Kuwaiti and U.S. prisons. It gave a 48-hour deadline, but it was unclear if the deadline had been changed to Sunday or if the tape was old.
Though the new conditions were unlikely to be met, Indian officials said they were optimistic.
"The indications from our diplomatic missions in Iraq, Kuwait and Cairo are that possibly this problem will be resolved soon," Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh told reporters in India.
Singh said the kidnappers did not appear to be political, but rather "irresponsible people who take such steps for money."
Militants in recent months have kidnapped roughly 70 foreigners in their campaign to force countries to withdraw troops and to scare away contractors working on reconstruction projects. At least three hostages have been beheaded, a practice that has stirred opposition from many Iraqis.