- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

BAGHDAD — Aquila al-Hashimi, a leading figure in Iraq’s Governing Council, died yesterday of gunshot wounds suffered in an ambush last week, marking the first time Iraq’s violence has claimed the life of a member of the U.S.-appointed administration.

Mrs. al-Hashimi, shot outside her home, had been optimistic about her country’s future although opposed to allowing foreigners to remain in charge on her native soil.

“We don’t need any more troops American or otherwise because there is no more war in this country,” Mrs. al-Hashimi said in an exclusive interview last month. “Iraqis will never in their life agree that Americans or any other foreign power would come here and make a government or install a president. No way.”

Mrs. al-Hashimi, picked by the United States in July as one of 25 members of a transitional Governing Council, died in a Baghdad hospital. The attack had occurred Saturday morning.

As with last month’s attacks on the United Nations compound in Baghdad and the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, the attack on Mrs. al-Hashimi appeared to target those who collaborated with the American-led occupation authority.

In her mid-40s, Mrs. al-Hashimi was in charge of the Iraq foreign ministry’s U.N. department and was a member of Saddam’s outlawed Ba’ath Party. She worked closely with Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s right-hand man on foreign policy and, unlike most Iraqis, was permitted to frequently travel abroad. Fluent in English and French, she was among the few powerful figures of the former regime who retained her stature under the occupation.

Mrs. al-Hashimi had been scheduled to travel to New York this week to attend United Nations sessions pertaining to the future of Iraq. She was one of only three women on the Governing Council and trained as a lawyer and college professor as well as a diplomat. She could have played a key role in bridging the divides among the United States, Iraq and the United Nations, the latter which has been heavily involved in Iraq’s affairs since the 1997 oil-for-food program, observers said.

There have been signs that Iraq’s Governing Council members could come under attack. The U.S.-led occupation authority has beefed up security where the council members work, as well as the hotel where many of them stay. Last month, al-Arabiya, the United Arab Emirates-based news network, broadcast a video in which masked gunmen vowed “to kill the members of the council before killing the Americans” because they were “traitors and spies.”

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