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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 16:33 GMT
Iraqis voice revulsion over killing
By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Baghdad

The people on the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, are filled with revulsion at the apparent murder of the aid worker Margaret Hassan.

Local television stations and Arabic satellite channels began broadcasting the news on Tuesday night.

Poster in Baghdad calling for Mrs Hassan's release
Billboards in Baghdad had called for Mrs Hassan's release

Iraqis we spoke to condemned the brutal killing, describing it as a crime against humanity.

"She devoted her life to serve the Iraqi people and help them in difficult times," said Ali Najem a resident of central Baghdad.

He said: "We considered her to be an Iraqi citizen. The criminals who did this want to spoil the image of Iraq and spoil the efforts now under way to hold elections."

Inside a dingy room nearby, a large family sits around the television. Among them is 14-year-old Iman Ahmed.

She should be at school but her mother has told her to stay at home because she fears she could be kidnapped if she walks the city streets.

According to Iman, Mrs Hassan was a well-known figure in the capital and other parts of the country.

Did Margaret come here with the American soldiers to fight? No
Iman Ahmed

She says: "Did Margaret come here with the American soldiers to fight? No, she came here to help the Iraqi people. Many people liked her because she helped us."

Across the road, in a run-down building housing a large electricity transformer, elderly Abu Akram folds up his prayer-mat and comes to speak to us.

He is disgusted by the unknown gang of gunmen who abducted Mrs Hassan four weeks ago as she was being driven to work in the capital.

He says: "The people who did this are not in any way related to Islam because Islam respects women. Everyone has to work together to fight these terrorists."

As we return to our office, we meet Dr Kaydar Al-Chalabi, the director of a Baghdad hospital which specialises in spinal injuries.

Civilian deaths

He spent the past 15 months working with Mrs Hassan who, through her aid agency Care International, rebuilt his hospital which was looted after the war and then badly damaged in a bombing.

He says: "If Margaret Hassan is dead, it really is a great loss not just for her family but for the whole of Iraq.

"What she offered to Iraq was beyond imagination, she really felt the suffering of the people.

"She was not just director of Care International, she ran everywhere she was needed - whether it was a patient, a child, a hospital, or a water purification project, she was the first there with her staff," he added.

But amid the sorrow here, some people also wanted to remind us of the daily death toll of innocent Iraqi civilians caught up in the fighting and bombings across the country.

Thousands have died since the invasion in March last year, but their deaths largely go unreported by the international media.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Margaret Hassan's husband appeals for her body




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