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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 14:17 GMT
Arab reaction to Hassan 'killing'
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC regional affairs analyst

Demonstrators in Baghdad calling for Mrs Hassan's release in October
In October, supporters gathered at Mrs Hassan's Baghdad office
There has been widespread condemnation of the reported killing of a leading woman aid worker in Iraq who had been held hostage since last month.

Margaret Hassan, 59, was seized on her way to work at aid agency Care International's offices in Baghdad.

Her captors had demanded the removal of British troops from Iraq and she had pleaded for her life on a video tape.

For residents of Baghdad the reported killing of Mrs Hassan was quite horrifying and, to some, shameful.

Where was this resistance during Saddam Hussein's time
Baghdad resident

One said: "This is a crime. Even God will not accept it. This is a sin. She was a good woman and she helped the Iraqis."

Another questioned the motives of the presumed killing: "We regret this act, and this act shows us how bad the terrorists are, and gives us a clear picture of those people who are claiming to be the resistance.

"Where was this resistance during Saddam Hussein's time?"

Many Iraqis blame the killing of foreign workers and Iraqi police in their country on infiltrators from neighbouring Arab countries.

'Mixed' responses

But outside Iraq, reactions in the Arab world to the violence have always been complex.

Many see ordinary Iraqis as the primary victims of the violence in the country and blame America.

While the vast majority of people support what they believe is a legitimate Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation, the killings of foreign civilians working there have produced mixed responses.

Conspiracy theorists - of whom there are many in the Arab world - see the workings of a sinister plot to discredit the Iraqi resistance - a view you can also hear inside Iraq.

Many Arab politicians and intellectuals have denounced the kidnapping and killing of civilians as un-Islamic.

The reported killing of Margaret Hassan will most likely re-ignite a debate in the Arab world about the rights and wrongs of the use of violence to achieve political goals.

A group of Arab intellectuals has laid the blame squarely on religious leaders, whom they accuse of inciting violence to create an Islamic state.

They have already appealed to the UN to set up an international tribunal to try Muslim clerics who encourage the young to join the ranks of jihadis worldwide.


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