On Tuesday, Libération (Paris) reported on the Shiite response to the assassination attempt on Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the Shiite coalition expected to win the Jan. 30 elections....

[Translated from Libération (Paris)]

World

SHIITE LEADER ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
By Florence Aubenas

Libération (Paris)
December 28, 2004

http://www.liberation.fr/page.php?Article=264444

BAGHDAD -- The first group arrives yesterday toward the end of the afternoon. About fifty, all men, heads wrapped in keffiyahs. They are chanting: "Abdel Aziz Hakim, we've come to give our blood for you." Others come from a little side street in the back. "Give us orders, Abdel Aziz, we shall obey you." Several hundred gather around the office of Abdel Aziz Hakim, who is heading up the Shiite coalition's list, which is among the favorites in January's election. There, in front of a fine villa in one of Baghdad's handsome districts that was Tariq Aziz's residence in the era of Saddam Hussein, a suicide car bomber rammed into a security post yesterday morning. Four guards died, as well as nine people in vehicles who were killed when fire spread into one of the traffic jams that always tie up every street in Baghdad.

"Our leader was far inside the villa," says one of Hakim's supporters. "The kamikaze knew he had no chance of reaching him. He wanted to send a warning: withdraw from the elections or we'll really strike." For the past ten days, attacks have been increasing against the Shiite community, which makes up a majority of Iraq's population and which is determined to see the election through: it hopes it will allow Shiites to win the recognition always refused them by Saddam's regime, which favored the clans of the Sunni minority.

As if to characterize the various positions being taken in electoral race, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), the leading Sunni group, announced yesterday that it was withdrawing from the election. For months the small Sunni community has been taking more and more radical positions against American occupation, and different armed groups now monopolize the political stage in the name of the "resistance." Only the IIP continued to act as a buffer vis-à-vis the coalition forces, participating in the various governments named by Washington. This time, it had decided to wage an election campaign despite the guerrilla fighters' calls to boycott the vote so long as the Americans were still in Iraq. "We think that the political path should be tried to the end," said Mohsen Abdel Hamid, the IIP's leader. A few days ago, Mohsen Hamid received a letter containing a death threat from the Consultative Council of the Mujahideen, the clandestine body grouping the various armed Sunni groups.

In the past, Hamid has said that in at least six of Iraq's 18 provinces security conditions for voting are inadequate, and he has been asking for a delay of six months. He's not alone. On the sidelines, several Iraqi ministers of all stripes desire the same thing. In front of the iron gate of Shiite leader Abdel Aziz Hakim's villa yesterday a dense crowd are shouting: "Elections, elections, we too will die so that you may take place."

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Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, Washington 98447-0003
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