Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Slain aid worker mourned

OUTRAGE Governments and charity groups blasted the slaughter of Margaret Hassan, a long-time resident of Iraq who worked for CARE Australia, by Iraqi militants

AFP , BAGHDAD

The suspected murder of British aid worker Margaret Hassan in Iraq was widely condemned here as a wave of unrest across Sunni Muslim hotspots killed more than 20 people, many of them women and children.

Amid the continued violence Wednesday, more than 60 Iraqi policemen were reported kidnapped as they returned Sunday from training in Jordan.

Hassan, 59, was seized on her way to work in Baghdad on Oct. 19 by unknown kidnappers.

She was presumed to be the first foreign female hostage to have been murdered in Iraq, and the second British hostage.

CARE Australia, the charity organization that employs Hassan, said it appeared she had been killed, after al-Jazeera television received a video showing a blindfolded woman hostage being shot in the head.

As her family mourned, Britain voiced outrage over the apparent slaying and EU aid commissioner Poul Nielson warned that it would make it almost impossible for relief work to continue in Iraq.

The Arab League also denounced the apparent murder.

"This is a criminal and terrorist act, rejected and denounced according to any criteria ... and inadmissible by every Arab and Muslim whatever the pretext," a spokesman said, adding that the League is "opposed in principle to targetting civilians."

There has been no official confirmation of her slaying.

The news of Hassan's suspected killing came during a wave a violence that saw people killed or wounded across Iraq as US-led troops battled insurgents in several Iraqi cities.

In Fallujah, where US-led troops launched a massive assault Nov. 8 to wrest the city from insurgents, a US Marine officer said Wednesday "the battle is over.

"We've still got pockets of fighters, but it's becoming more and more scarce," said Lieutenant Colonel Leonard DiFrancisci, head of civil affairs for the 1st Regimental Combat Team.

But Arabs voiced outrage at the apparent shooting of an unarmed Iraqi by a US Marine in Fallujah, calling for an immediate investigation of this "war crime."

And there are fears of a humanitarian crisis as US troops have prevented a Red Crescent aid convoy from entering Fallujah, a city of some 300,000 civilians in normal times, saying it was too dangerous.

"As far as the return of civilians, it will be at least a week," DiFrancisci said. "That would be a guess."

At least 39 US soldiers have been killed and 275 wounded so far in Operation Dawn, with at least five Iraqi troops and more than 1,200 insurgents also killed, according to the US military.

The military continued its bid to clear rebels from the northern city of Mosul, while at least 23 people were killed in clashes and attacks elsewhere.

Fourteen people were killed, most of them women and children, and 26 wounded in a bomb explosion and clashes in the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, police said.

In western Iraq more than 60 policemen were seized Sunday as they returned from training in Jordan, one of only two men who managed to escape the ambush told reporters Wednesday.

"We were around 65 policemen returning from training in Jordan when around 20 masked gunmen entered our hotel Sunday morning in Trebil," Leith Naama al-Kaabi said.

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