BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A sister of Iraq’s new Sunni Arab vice president was killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad on Thursday, police said. She died one day after her brother called for the Sunni-dominated insurgency to be crushed by force.
In southern Iraq, a bomb hit an Italian military convoy at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, killing four soldiers, three Italians and a Romanian, Italy’s government said.
The explosion near an Italian military base was caused by a roadside bomb that hit the convoy in Nasiriyah, a heavily Shiite city 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad, said local Iraqi government spokesman Haidr Radhi.
About 2,600 Italian troops are stationed in Nasiriyah, and 27 had been killed before Thursday’s attack.
Romanian Cpl. Bogdan Hancu, 28, who died in the bombing, was the first Romanian soldier killed in combat in Iraq, Romania’s government said. Romania has 860 troops in Iraq as part of the multinational force.
The violence came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were visiting Baghdad to meet with officials in the new Iraqi government.
Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi, 60, whose brother, Tariq al-Hashimi, was appointed by parliament as vice president on Saturday, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a BMW sedan as she was leaving her home at 8 a.m. with her bodyguard in southwestern Baghdad, said police Capt. Jamel Hussein. The bodyguard, Saad Ali, also died in the shooting, Hussein said.
It was the second recent killing in Tariq al-Hashimi’s immediate family. On April 13, his brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi, was shot while driving in a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad.
On Thursday, two of the vice president’s brothers, one an army officer, raced to the scene to recover the body of their sister, Hussein said. She had worked on the government’s audit commission and was married with two grown children.
The television station Baghdad, owned by the vice president’s Iraqi Islamic Party, showed home photos of Mayson al-Hashimi, wearing an orange headscarf, and footage of her bullet-riddled white SUV, while playing mournful music.
It was not immediately possible to contact the vice president, but Ziyad al-Ani, a senior official in the Iraqi Islamic Party, condemned the attackers. “What astonished us is that they targeted a woman. This shows how wicked the attackers are,” al-Ani said in an interview. He said the killings “by the enemies of Iraq” will fail in their goal of driving al-Hashimi and his party away from the country’s new 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.
Sunni insurgents have targeted prominent men and women politicians in the past.
On April 17, the brother of another leading Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, was found dead in Baghdad after he was kidnapped.
Aqeela al-Hashimi, a member of the Governing Council put together by the United States before the return of sovereignty to the Iraqis, was killed by gunmen who sprayed her car with gunfire in September 2003. Her successor in the post, Salama al-Khafaji, had several assassination attempts against her.
In other violence Thursday, the bodies of 13 Iraqis who had been kidnapped and tortured were found by in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, police said.
That and the drive-by shooting raised to 123 the number of Iraqi civilians or police who have been killed in insurgency- or sectarian-related violence since Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite hard-liner was tapped as Iraq’s prime minister designate on Saturday and asked to form a new national unity government aimed at stopping a wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.
Al-Maliki has 30 days to assemble a Cabinet from divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties. The most contentious question will be filling key ministries that control security forces amid demands to purge them of militias blamed for the rise in sectarian bloodshed.
On Wednesday, Vice President al-Hashimi had made a show of unity with his Kurdish and Shiite colleagues, calling for Iraq’s insurgency to be put down by force. Shiites had demanded that Sunni officials make such a statement as a show of their commitment to building a democratic system.
Al-Hashimi shrugged off a videotape by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, widely seen on TV Tuesday, during which the al-Qaida 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,” al-Hashimi said at a news conference with President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and his fellow vice president, Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Al-Hashimi, Talabani, Abdul-Mahdi met with Rica and Rumsfeld on Wednesday.
On Thursday, al-Hashimi and Abdul-Mahdi were meeting in the holy city of Najaf with Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The reclusive Sistani, who lives in Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, has played a big role in restraining Shiite anger in the face of Sunni insurgent attacks that have pushed Iraq toward a sectarian civil war. Top politicians often seek Sistani’s advice. “The new government will provide security to all people and work to integrate militias into Iraq’s army and police forces,” al-Hashimi said, heading into his meeting with al-Sistani.
Rice and Rumsfeld hope that Sunni participation in a new national unity government in Iraq led by al-Maliki will undermine the country’s Sunni-led insurgency as well as reduce Shiite-Sunni violence that has flared in the past two months.