[Excerpt: It was the latest in a string of attacks on figures perceived to be collaborating with Iraq’s American occupiers. Fighters believed to be loyal to Saddam Hussein are trying to disrupt the U.S.-sponsored political process that envisages a new constitution and a democratically elected government before the end of next year.]
Member of Iraq’s Governing Council Shot, Critically Wounded in Assassination Bid in Baghdad
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq Sept. 20 —
Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of Iraq’s Governing Council, was shot and critically wounded Saturday in an assassination attempt outside her home in western Baghdad, police and doctors said.
Also Saturday, U.S. soldiers guarding the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad opened fire as a green car tried to race through a military checkpoint. The car was stopped, and the driver was dragged out and made to lay face down in the roadway.
Much of the foreign journalist corps lives in the Palestine and the adjacent Sheraton Hotel. Also, Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary doing million of dollars of reconstruction and other work for the U.S.-led coalition, occupies a total of 9 floors in the two buildings.
An American tank always sits at the entrance to the hotel complex, and about a dozen soldiers were quickly on the scene when the car refused to stop at the checkpoint.
The Governing Council member, Al-Hashimi, was in critical condition with abdominal wounds, a doctor at al-Yarmouk hospital said on condition of anonymity. After surgery she was moved to an unspecified location in a convoy of American armored vehicles and military ambulances.
Three of her bodyguards also were injured, said Mohammed Abdul Ghany, a security official at the al-Yarmouk hospital.
Members of al-Hashimi’s security detail said the attack was carried out by men in two new SUVs. They fired rocket-propelled grenades that missed her car, then opened fire with Kalashnikov assault rifles.
A neighbor, Khola Ibrahim, said she was in her kitchen when she “heard shooting, very heavy shooting.”
Another neighbor, Saba Adel, said al-Hashimi’s brother who acted as one of her bodyguards knocked on her door crying out “My sister, my sister!”
Saba Adel said she saw another bodyguard lying on the sidewalk wounded in the arm and leg.
“He looked in terrible condition,” she said.
An Iraqi security official said al-Hashimi was brought to the hospital at about 10:30 a.m. and immediately was taken to surgery for a bullet wound in the left side of her abdomen.
She was then taken to an unknown location in a U.S. military ambulance while still unconscious, said the official, who would not give his name.
“We will catch those responsible for this vicious crime,” Ghany said.
Al-Hashimi is one of three women on the 25-member council. She was preparing to leave for New York as part of an Iraqi delegation that will attempt to assume Iraq’s seat at the U.N. General Assembly.
Al-Hashimi is a Shiite Muslim and a career diplomat who led the Iraqi delegation to a donors’ conference in New York this summer. She holds a degree in law and a doctorate in modern literature.
It was the latest in a string of attacks on figures perceived to be collaborating with Iraq’s American occupiers. Fighters believed to be loyal to Saddam Hussein are trying to disrupt the U.S.-sponsored political process that envisages a new constitution and a democratically elected government before the end of next year.
Late last month, a Shiite Muslim leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim was assassinated in a bomb blast in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad. The attack, widely thought to be the work of Saddam’s supporters, killed at least 85 people.
Al-Hakim’s Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the biggest anti-Saddam opposition group, was represented on the Governing Council.
U.S. troops have been trying to track down pro-Saddam fighters who have launched near-daily attacks on U.S. troops, including an ambush and gunbattle that killed three soldiers and wounded two on Thursday night near Tikrit.
U.S. tanks and armored fighting vehicles rumbled through Tikrit early Saturday in a show of force meant to discourage more attacks and flush out armed resistance.
“We took a tank company and a Bradley (armored vehicle) company,” Lt. Col. Steve Russell, the 1st Battalion commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 22nd Infantry Regiment, told The Associated Press. “We wanted to send a message.”
Fifty-eight Iraqis were captured after the attacks on Thursday, described as some of the fiercest and best-planned resistance in months. U.S. troops seized a considerable number of weapons from a minivan fleeing the area, the military said.
During Saturday’s patrol, tanks swept through residential areas, occasionally dismounting to set up security points, to check cars and people leaving Tikrit after the city’s 11 p.m. curfew.
The patrol ended without incident.
“We wanted to make contact with the enemy,” Russell said. “If they want, we’ll surely oblige him.”