"Gunmen burst into their villa and took away two Lebanese men [late on Wednesday]," a police officer said on Thursday.

The armed men tied up the men's Iraqi security guard and locked him in the bathroom as they seized Hassa Abu Muhammad and Haji Qasim, who are with the al-Bait al-Lubnani company, the officer said.

About 30 Lebanese working for private companies in Iraq have been kidnapped and later freed. However, in September, one was killed by his captors and three others killed during an attempted capture.

Another three are still listed as missing.

Al-Sadr aide hurt

The Iraqi National Guard is often
the target of attacks

Separately on Thursday a senior member of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr's office in Basra survived an assassination attempt after unknown assailants opened fire at him while he was on his way to work.

Shaikh Khalil al-Malki was seriously injured in the shooting, Aljazeera has learned.

At the same time, an Iraqi National Guard officer was killed after armed men opened fire at him in front of his home in the al-Mualimin neighbourhood of central Baquba city.

As for a loud blast heard in central Baghdad, it was caused by a diesel tank exploding, not any sort of attack, witnesses said.

They added that nobody was killed in the blast.

'Fighter captured'

In another development, the interim Iraqi government said US-led forces have captured a senior member of the al-Qaida-linked network led by al-Zarqawi in a Baghdad raid.

It said Fadil Husain Ahmad al-Kurdi was captured along with two other suspected anti-US fighters.

Those detained are alleged to be
linked to the Jordanian fugitive

The interim government said Kurdi, a 26-year-old Iraqi Kurd also known as Ridha, was the brother of Umar Baziyani, an al-Zarqawi lieutenant captured in May. 
 
"Ridha was responsible for facilitating communications between al-Qaida and the al-Zarqawi terror networks as well as coordinating the movement of terrorists in and out of Iraq," an interim government statement said.

"Both Ridha and Umar Baziyani remain in detention and are being question by Iraqi and coalition forces."

The government did not say when the arrests were made. US forces said three weeks ago they had seized unidentified "transnational terrorists" in Baghdad.