- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

BAGHDAD — Gunmen opened fire yesterday on a convoy carrying Iraq’s minister of public works, killing a driver and a bodyguard and injuring two persons, the U.S.-led coalition said. The minister, Nisreen Berwari, was unharmed.

In another attack in the same city, Mosul, gunmen killed a Briton and a Canadian who were working as security guards for foreign electrical engineers at a power station. The attack appeared to be part of a campaign to undermine U.S.-led reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

The attacks highlighted the tenuous security situation in Iraq’s third-largest city, once a prime recruiting ground for the officer corps of Saddam Hussein’s military.

Mrs. Berwari was returning to Mosul from a meeting in the city of Dohuk when her convoy was attacked, said Kristi Clemens, a coalition spokeswoman in the capital, Baghdad.

Saro Qader, an official with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, called the attack an “assassination attempt.” Mrs. Berwari is a member of the party.

Iraqi police said the two men who were killed were bodyguards and that Mrs. Berwari was in another car that was not hit by gunfire.

Mrs. Berwari, who earned a degree at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1999, previously served as development minister in the Kurdistan regional government and with United Nations organizations in Iraq.

Another female political leader, Aqila al-Hashimi, was assassinated in September. She was a Shi’ite member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The slain Briton and Canadian had been assigned to protect foreign engineers working for General Electric Co., a coalition spokesman said on the condition of anonymity. GE is helping rebuild Iraq’s decrepit electrical infrastructure, which has suffered owing to war, neglect and years of sanctions.

U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police sealed off the area after the shooting. Witnesses saw two partly burned bodies, clad in flak jackets, lying beside a four-wheel drive vehicle that was on fire. One man had been shot in the head.

In London, the Foreign Office said one Briton had been killed. In Ottawa, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said a Canadian had died. Their names were not released.

This month, assailants have killed other Western civilians linked to reconstruction efforts — four American missionaries working on a water project in Mosul, two Finnish businessmen in Baghdad, a German and a Dutch national working on a water project south of the capital, and two American staffers with the coalition shot south of Baghdad.

U.S. military officials in Mosul say insurgents are shifting from attacks on American troops to targeting Iraqi security forces, and most recently civilians. The shift could be partly because there are fewer American soldiers in the area, and consequently fewer U.S. targets.

The U.S. military, however, says rebels are choosing civilians targets owing to frustration at a lack of success in attacking soldiers.

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