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Iraqi Legislator Slain, Underscoring Danger

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 28, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD, April 27 -- After one attempt on her life, Lamia Abed Khadouri Sakri went underground, moving out of the home she shared with a brother who was crippled in the attack, colleagues say.

On Wednesday, gunmen found Sakri at her new house in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood. They knocked on her door, she answered and they shot her, according to news accounts.

Lamia Abed Khadouri Sakri was assassinated in her home in Baghdad.

Sakri, a longtime political activist elected to the National Assembly in January, was the first member of Iraq's three-month-old transitional government to be assassinated. To an insurgency that singles out Iraqis associated with the country's U.S.-backed leadership, the determined, middle-aged Shiite Muslim woman in a head scarf was a prime target, a soft target.

"The cowards finally reached her," said Hamdiya Ahmed, Sakri's colleague in the assembly, a member of the same secular political bloc and the survivor of what she said were two attempts on her life.

"None of us are safe. Everyone is exposed to danger," said Ahmed, whose driver was killed in the most recent attack on her. "There should be immediate measures to provide security for the members, or they'll be finished by the end of the year."

Daily car bombings, ambushes and other tactics have killed scores of members of Iraq's security forces. Attacks also have targeted civilian members of the outgoing appointed administration, including interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whom bombers tried to kill last week. Radical Islamic Web sites have quoted Jordanian insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi urging followers to keep up attacks on "collaborators" in the new administration, threatening Sunni Arabs in particular.

Those elected on Jan. 30 didn't really need to be warned.

"He has a fatwa on me, too," said the new assembly's speaker, Hachim Hasani, using the Arabic term that can sometimes mean death sentence.

"He has a fatwa on a lot of people, so it doesn't matter."

The highest-ranking members of the government protect themselves by reluctantly retreating behind the concrete-and-steel barricades of Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone. American troops in armored vehicles park outside the homes and offices of President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Jafari. More than a dozen security guards from private Western companies surround Jafari even when he moves around the Green Zone, including to the National Assembly site.

But most of the assembly's 275 members live outside the walls of the Green Zone. Assembly guidelines call for 15 guards per lawmaker, "maybe helicopters, too," Hasani said in a telephone interview Wednesday night as a U.S. military helicopter passed low over his home. Money for the guards, however, was left out of the assembly's budget, Hasani said.

Officials with means have private, professional bodyguards. Officials with extended families have phalanxes of tough nephews and cousins.

Only about five or six members of the assembly have reported death threats or assassination attempts, Hasani said. Some have not attended an assembly session, leaving fellow lawmakers wondering if they were too frightened to come, he said.

Some newly elected members had asked if they could serve in the assembly while keeping their day jobs, for safety's sake, Hasani said. "That tells you something: Some of the members, they don't want to be known," he said.

Sakri, the slain lawmaker, belonged to Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party before resigning in the mid-1970s and going into exile, colleagues said. After U.S. forces toppled Hussein in early 2003, she returned as part of Allawi's coterie.

Last year, an attack on Sakri wounded her brother, costing him a limb, Ahmed said in a brief telephone interview. Fears of more attacks prompted Sakri to move into a house by herself about six months ago, Ahmed said.

Mowaffak Rubaie, the national security adviser, said authorities planned an immediate campaign to better educate assembly members on the dangers they face.

"All sorts of measures" will follow, Rubaie said Wednesday. "It is the absolute duty of the new government to protect the assembly."

Something needs to be done, Hasani said. "Otherwise they will pick off each member.''

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