- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

BAGHDAD — A sister of Iraq’s new Sunni Arab vice president was killed yesterday in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad, a day after the politician called for the Sunni-dominated insurgency to be crushed by force.

In southern Iraq, a bomb hit an Italian military convoy, killing four soldiers — three Italians and a Romanian — and seriously injuring another passenger, officials in Rome said. The bomb struck the convoy near an Italian military base in Nasariyah, a heavily Shi’ite city 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, a local Iraqi government spokesman said.

Elsewhere, a U.S. jet fired two missiles at insurgent positions in Ramadi, U.S. officers said. Fighting also broke out between Iraqi forces and insurgents northeast of Baghdad, killing several Iraqi police officers and civilians.

The violence came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Baghdad to meet with officials in Iraq’s new government. Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite hard-liner recently tapped as Iraq’s prime minister, is trying to form a national unity government aimed at stopping a wave of sectarian violence.

Yesterday, Mr. al-Maliki met with Iraq’s top shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, and won his backing for his plan to disband militias, which Washington sees as the key to calming sectarian strife.

Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi, 60, whose brother, Tariq al-Hashimi, was appointed by parliament as vice president Saturday, was killed by gunmen in a sedan as she left her southwestern Baghdad home with her bodyguard, police said. The bodyguard also died.

It was the second recent killing in Mr. al-Hashimi’s immediate family. On April 13, his brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi, was shot while driving in a mostly Shi’ite area of eastern Baghdad.

Mrs. al-Hashimi had worked on the government’s audit commission and was married with two grown children.

“What astonished us is that they targeted a woman. This shows how wicked the attackers are,” said Ziyad al-Ani, a senior official in the vice president’s Iraqi Islamic Party. He said the killings “by the enemies of Iraq” will fail in their goal of driving Mr. al-Hashimi and his party from government.

The party is one of three major Sunni political groups in the Iraqi Accordance Front, which won 44 seats in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election.

On Wednesday, Mr. al-Hashimi called for Iraq’s insurgency to be put down by force. Shi’ites had demanded that Sunni officials make such a statement to demonstrate their commitment to building a democratic system.

Mr. al-Hashimi also shrugged off a video released this week by Abu Musab Zarqawi, during which the al Qaeda in Iraq leader tried to rally Sunnis to fight the new government and denounced Sunnis who cooperate with it as “agents” of the Americans.

“I say, yes, we’re agents. We’re agents for Islam, for the oppressed. We have to defend the future of our people,” Mr. al-Hashimi said at a press conference with President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and his fellow vice president, Shi’ite Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

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