News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqGunmen in Baghdad kill sister of Iraqi Vice President

Gunmen in Baghdad kill sister of Iraqi Vice President

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Washington Post: Two sedans loaded with gunmen sped through the streets of Baghdad on Thursday morning, chasing the sister of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. Washington Post

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2006; A12

BAGHDAD, April 27 — Two sedans loaded with gunmen sped through the streets of Baghdad on Thursday morning, chasing the sister of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

As one of the attackers’ cars cut off the sport-utility vehicle carrying Mayson al-Hashimi, the other drove past, spraying the vehicle with bullets and killing the 60-year-old woman, whose biggest offense was being related to a prominent Sunni leader.

A wounded survivor traveling with Hashimi told the police what had happened, police Gen. Raad Khudaier Tamimi said. Meanwhile, attackers left behind a note, Tamimi said.

“This is a punishment for those who collaborate,” the note said. It was signed, “Monotheism and Jihad.”

Mayson al-Hashimi was the second sibling whom Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, has lost since April 13, when another pack of gunmen killed his brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi.

That was before Tariq al-Hashimi and his fellow vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi — both of whom served in the transitional government — took office on Saturday at a meeting of Iraq’s newly formed parliament. Hashimi, a Sunni, vowed with his Shiite and Kurdish colleagues to defeat the country’s insurgent movement and restore national stability.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had called Hashimi earlier this month to express her condolences for his brother’s killing. She also met the vice president in a one-on-one session during her visit to Iraq on Wednesday. A day later, Hashimi’s sister was killed.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, paid tribute to Hashimi: “He and many others like him are true Iraqi patriots,” he said. “They’re doing what they’re doing at great risk and great personal sacrifice.”

Living in Iraq has its share of dangers, but stepping into the limelight of politics makes it that much easier for a lawmaker and his family to wind up in the cross hairs of any number of armed factions. Few politicians have been spared threats or tragedy. Abdul Mahdi — a Shiite — lost his brother at the hands of insurgents last fall. Attackers killed two sons of Mithal Alousi, a secular Sunni politician, after he made an unpopular visit to Israel.

Provincial governors, who have less security, have even more problems: The governor of Nineveh province in northern Iraq has survived at least three attempts on his life and has lost a son and five other relatives.

The sister of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, another Shiite, was kidnapped in January but later released. The brother of Saleh al-Mutlak, an outspoken Sunni political leader, met another fate: Police found his body on April 17, a few days after he was kidnapped.

Mutlak, a friend of Hashimi’s, said he could sympathize with his colleague’s loss.

“We feel very sorry for him,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I have other brothers, but he was the most active one among all of them,” Mutlak said of his slain brother, Taha al-Mutlak. “He had a very strong personality, was very influential in society. He did a lot in politics, and in a very short period. I think this is why they targeted him, because they saw that he was very influential.”

One of the hardest things to deal with, Mutlak said, is not knowing who did it.

“Our people are being killed every day, and we don’t know who did it, who hates Iraq and Iraqis,” Mutlak said. “Is this al-Qaeda or is it a regional power?” A moment later he acknowledged that “regional power” was an allusion to Iran, a neighboring Shiite theocracy that many Sunnis believe is supporting Shiite militias in Iraq.

There was little clarity even in the note left behind by Mayson al-Hashimi’s attackers. Monotheism and Jihad was the name of the Sunni insurgent organization led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but the group changed its name months ago to al-Qaeda in Iraq and has often acted recently under the name Mujaheddin Shura Council.

With no answers, Mutlak said, he had no choice but to return to his mission in politics.

“My life is not important anymore,” he said. “The lives of Iraqis — if I can do something good for them, I will not hesitate at all.”

Special correspondents K.I. Ibrahim and Omar Fekeiki in Baghdad and staff writer Glenn Kessler in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this report.

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