Iraq government member survives ambush of convoy: Her 18-year-old son is missing

Associated Press

May 28, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying a member of the Iraqi Governing Council as she was returning to Baghdad from mediation efforts in Najaf on Thursday. The council member survived, but her son was missing and at least one bodyguard was killed, aides said.

Salama al-Khafaji was in a three-vehicle convoy that came under fire in the town of Yusufiyah. A bodyguard was killed and another was critically wounded, according to chief aide Fateh Kashef al-Ghataa.

He said the car carrying al-Khafaji's 18-year-old son, Ahmed Fadel, plunged into an irrigation canal, and survivors said they saw him swimming away. However, he was missing, Kashef al-Ghataa said.

He said U.S. troops sealed off the area while search parties looked for the teenager.

"Everyone fought the attackers, including Ahmed," Kashef al-Ghataa said.

It was unclear whether al-Khafaji was wounded in the attack. Kashef al-Ghataa said only that she was taken to a "secret location" for security reasons.

The ambush occurred 10 days after the head of the Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, was assassinated in a suicide car bombing as he waited to enter the heavily guarded Green Zone, the headquarters of the U.S.-run occupation authority.

A group believed led by al-Qaida-linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility in a message posted on an Islamist Web site.

The attack against al-Khafaji took place in an area notorious for ambushes and carjackings, and it was unclear whether she was specifically targeted. Vehicle convoys are especially vulnerable to such attacks because Iraqis associate them with civilian contractors and security agents working for the occupation.

Al-Khafaji is one of three women on the Governing Council. She replaced another Shiite woman member, Aquila al-Hashemi, who was mortally wounded in September in an ambush near her Baghdad home.