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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Iraqi council member 'critically' wounded
Aqila al-Hashimi
Ms Hashimi is one of three women on the 25-member Council
One of the three woman on Iraq's Governing Council has been seriously wounded in a gun attack in western Baghdad.

Aqila al-Hashimi - the only council member to have served in the former government of Saddam Hussein - was leaving home by car when unidentified gunmen opened fire causing the vehicle to crash.

She was taken to Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, before being transferred to a US military hospital, where she is being treated for injuries to her stomach, shoulder and leg.

Reports suggested al-Hashimi might be taken outside Iraq for treatment. She was said to be in a "critical but stable" condition.

Members of the Governing Council and ministers will not be intimidated by the terrorists
Ahmad Chalabi
The US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, condemned the attack, saying he was "shocked and saddened by this horrific and cowardly act".

"This senseless attack is not just against the person of Aqila al-Hashimi, it is an attack against the people of Iraq and against the common goals we share for the establishment of a fully democratic government," Mr Bremer said in a statement.

String of attacks

Members of Ms Hashimi's security team said the attack was carried out by men in two new four-wheel drive vehicles who launched rocket-propelled grenades that missed the car, before firing Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Aqila al-Hashimi (left) and two other Iraqi Governing Council members pose with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (second right) at the UN
Ms Hashimi (left) visited the UN earlier this year
The gunmen struck shortly after the councillor left her home in western Baghdad at about 0845 local time (0445 GMT).

Bullet holes in a tree, bloodstains by the roadside and damage to a garage and a garden wall were visible at the scene, Reuters reported.

There has been a string of attacks on Iraqi figures viewed by Saddam loyalists as collaborators with the American occupying forces - including the bombing in Najaf in August that killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and more than 100 others.

Ms Hashimi was preparing to travel to New York next week as part of the Iraqi delegation to the United Nations General Assembly that hopes to occupy Iraq's seat at the UN.

Ahmad Chalabi, president of the Governing Council for September, said: "The members of the Governing Council and ministers will not be intimidated by the terrorists."

Former Saddam official

Hospital officials said three of her bodyguards had also been injured in the attack.

Yarmouk hospital doctor Hind Shaker was quoted by Reuters saying that Ms Hashimi was "a difficult case" and had been moved to a US military hospital in the belief she could get better treatment there.

Ms Hashimi, who is a Shia Muslim, sits on the 25-member Governing Council, set up by Mr Bremer in July as part of efforts to hand power over to Iraqis.

The career diplomat's appointment surprised observers. She is the only former Baath party member on the council, having held a senior post in the foreign ministry.

She holds a doctorate in modern literature and is reported to have been a close colleague of former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.

She is thought to be the first member of the council to have faced an assassination attempt.

Some Iraqis have criticised the Governing Council and the process by which it was set up, saying it is merely an extension of the coalition authority, with no real power or independence.

Iraqi insurgents have also launched daily attacks on US-led occupation forces that have killed 76 American soldiers.

Correspondents say criminal activity in Baghdad has also surged in the lawless environment that has developed since the war.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Witnesses spoke of six armed men in a pick-up truck"

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