Ruling Council Member Dies After Attack

Assassination of Aqila Al-Hashemi serves notice that entire interim government is at risk.

Ruling Council Member Dies After Attack

Assassination of Aqila Al-Hashemi serves notice that entire interim government is at risk.

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

The death of Aqila al-Hashimi, one of three women on Iraq's Governing Council, five days after she was shot in an ambush, underlined that the interim administration is a priority target for opponents.

Al-Hashimi was suffered severe injured after four gunmen opened fire as she left her home by car on September 20. Hit in the stomach, shoulder and leg, Al-Hashimi was rushed to hospital and underwent a number of operations. She died on September 25.

Al-Hashimi, was formerly a senior diplomat in Saddam Hussein's administration, and was the only regime member appointed to the Governing Council.

But Iraqi officials are not attributing the attack to her Ba'athist past - or to the fact that she was a woman and a Shia Muslim. Instead, they see it as confirmation that all members of the interim Governing Council and the new cabinet - regardless of their ethnic, political or religious affiliation - are likely to be targeted by opponents of the US intervention.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and there is more than one theory about who was behind it.

"The criminals were remnants of the Ba'ath regime and Saddam's assassins," said Entifadah Qanbar, spokesman for Governing Council leader Ahmed Chalabi. Qanbar added that Al-Hashimi had received several threats in the days before the attack.

Another council member, Nasir Chadirchi, believes terrorists from other Muslim countries must have carried out the attack.

The killing also highlights the sensitivity of bringing former Ba'athists back into government service. While they have expertise and experience to offer the new administration, some Iraqis feel considerable resentment at their swift rehabilitation.

Al-Hashimi worked in the foreign ministry before the US-led war, and had recently been tipped to become Iraq's new ambassador to the United Nations.

Her appointment to the ruling body was controversial, but fellow council member Hamid Majid Mousa, head of the Communist Party, stressed that she was not involved in the crimes committed by Saddam's regime. "The support and respect she enjoys in the council are mostly because of her qualifications and activities, and the role she has played in Iraqi foreign relations," he said.

The head of the civil administration, Paul Bremer, condemned the "horrific and cowardly attack" on Al-Hashimi, which he said "targets the new experiment of the Iraqi people, regardless of their ethnicity and politics".

Saif al-Khayat is an editor with the Al-Nahdaha newspaper and a free-lance writer.

Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
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