Global Policy Forum

Attacks on Educators Continue in Iraq


By Doug Smith

Los Angeles Times
November 8, 2007

A schoolteacher is shot dead in Baghdad, the second such incident in the capital. A principal was abducted in Kirkuk two days earlier.

Gunmen killed a schoolteacher Wednesday on her way to class in a well-to-do Baghdad neighborhood, the third attack on Iraqi educators this week. Police said Hana Lafta Mohsen, 35, a mathematics teacher at the Mansour neighborhood's Intifada Intermediate School, was shot in the head by unknown assailants. She died at a local hospital.

On Sunday, gunmen stormed into a primary school in the Sadiya neighborhood of south Baghdad and killed headmistress Bushra Abdul Hurr in front of her students. In the northern city of Kirkuk, armed men abducted a school principal Monday. The men stopped a car transporting the principal and several teachers. The gunmen released all but the principal, Imad Mohammed, said one of the teachers, who asked not to be named. A Baghdad police official said he was unaware of a connection between the two shootings in the capital but said the resumption of school after the three-month summer break could have been a factor.

Iraqi schools previously have been beset by violence. Schools shut down in parts of Baghdad last year at the height of the country's civil war, with some teachers targeted by extremist groups. University professors also have been regularly targeted by militants and criminal gangs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi army spokesman in Baghdad said that improving security conditions had prompted more than 46,000 Iraqis to return from abroad in October. They were among more than 2 million Iraqis who have taken refuge primarily in neighboring Jordan and Syria. Qassim Ata, a spokesman for Iraqi forces aiding the U.S. troop buildup, also cited the start of the school year as a possible reason for the Iraqis' return. Ata spoke at a news conference on state-run Al Iraqiya television. However, both Syria and Jordan have recently tightened immigration restrictions, forcing Iraqis to leave when their three-month visas expire, unless they qualify for refugee status. Ata did not indicate how many, if any, Iraqis had left the country in the same month.

Meanwhile, six unidentified homicide victims were found in the capital Wednesday, and a sniper killed Muhannand Mizhir Sheikhly, the son of a leading member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's main Sunni Arab political group. A party spokesman in Basra said two members were killed this week in what he called a campaign targeting the Sunni group. Ghazi Mohammed, deputy president of the local council in the Jamiya neighborhood in west Basra, and Salman Dleishi, who was in charge of aid for the poor at the Abu Khasib Mosque south of Basra, were both killed Monday, he said. Basra's police chief Wednesday survived the second attempt on his life in three days and the sixth since his appointment in June. A roadside bomb struck the convoy of the chief, Abduljaleel Khalaf, on a main road in west Basra, said police spokesman Col. Kareem Sattar Zaidi. Four of his guards were injured. Khalaf was attacked at his brother's house Monday and previously was the target of two sniper attacks and two bombings. He was appointed by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki over the objections of the local council.

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Times staff writers Wail Alhafith and Saif Hameed and special correspondents in Baghdad and Basra contributed to this report.

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