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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

They mean what they say

Assassins in Baghdad Kill a Deputy Mayor
Top Engineer Persisted Despite Warnings
By Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2003; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Oct. 28 -- The warnings came from his mother, sister, four brothers, and friends -- and from people who called late at night and threatened harm.

Stop working with the Americans.

Faris Abdul Razzaq Assam, one of Baghdad's three deputy mayors, heard the messages but listened to his heart, family members said. He continued to work on water projects and set up neighborhood councils. He supervised thousands of employees as the head of city technical services.

When Assam returned Sunday from an international donors' conference in Madrid, he excitedly told his family that he had secured billions of dollars in pledges. "I'm going to turn Baghdad into heaven," he said.

Hours later, witnesses said, two gunmen walked into an outdoor cafe where Assam was playing dominoes and shot him in the head at point-blank range. The assailants slipped into the night and remain at large.

Assam's unsolved slaying is the latest in a string of assassinations of Iraqis who work with U.S. forces. Last month, a member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council was gunned down as she left her home; earlier, a member of a Baghdad neighborhood council was killed by a car bomb.

Police in Mosul, about 220 miles north of Baghdad, said Ahmed Shawkat, a newspaper editor, was shot and killed Tuesday on the roof of his paper's building. His daughter, Roaa Shawkat, told the Associated Press that some people disagreed with her father's writings because they were about democracy, "and our people don't understand the meaning of democracy."

Assam's family, speaking on the second day of a three-day mourning period, said they did not learn until after his killing that he had received death threats. As friends and relatives gathered under large, colorful tents to pay their respects, the family members said they assumed the Americans would protect him but did not know if Assam had told them he might be in danger.

They reserved the brunt of their anger and blame for the killers, who they said they believe are steadfast followers of the ousted president, Saddam Hussein.

"Iraq doesn't deserve people like him," a distraught Mayada Assam, 33, dressed in traditional black mourning clothes, said of her brother. "That's why he's gone. They deserve Saddam only."

These folks are serious. Cooperation with the CPA is enough to get you killed. Some are Baathist, but a lot aren't. Everyone is armed, but they didn't move to stop the killers.

posted by Steve @ 1:33:00 PM

1:33:00 PM

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