Iraq accused over murder of German reporter

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GUNMEN firing automatic weapons from a car killed Lissy Schmidt, a German reporter, and her bodyguard in Iraqi Kurdistan over the weekend, part of a wave of attacks on foreigners seemingly orchestrated by Baghdad.

A passionate supporter of the cause of the 20 million ethnic Kurds split between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, Schmidt, 35, reported for the French news agency AFP and German media. Iraqi Kurdish officials said she had become part of Kurdish society since she moved into northern Iraq in 1991, when it became an essentially autonomous Kurdish-ruled, Western-protected area after the Gulf war.

Colleagues said Schmidt sometimes carried a gun. But she and her bodyguard had no chance when a car overtook them between Suleyma niyeh and Penjwin near the Iranian border and sprayed their vehicle with fire.

'This is an area close to Iraqi lines and below the 36th parallel (the line beyond which the West does not allow Iraqi aircraft to fly),' said Safeen Dizayee, a Kurdish spokesman in Ankara. 'It is clear evidence that there are a lot of hands at work to drive the foreigners away.'

A Swedish reporter was injured in March by a bomb placed in his car. On 27 March, two Austrians were wounded when a group of nine United Nations guards in the north were ambushed close to Iraqi front lines. Kurdish guerrillas 'pursued the attackers until they took refuge in a nearby Iraqi army post. The attackers then got into a waiting white Toyota pick-up and drove off toward Mosul,' Mr Dizayee said.

The 3.5 million Kurds of northern Iraq are largely dependent on Western military protection and aid distributed by UN agencies and charities that have survived Iraqi official harassment, threats and attacks since mid-1992.

Four of the men suspected of plotting the murder of Stuart Cameron, the Australian aid worker, were now sheltering in the Iraqi-controlled town of Kirkuk, Mr Dizayee said. Two others confessed to an Iraqi role in the plot and were sentenced to death two months ago, he added.

In Turkey, a Kurdish group calling itself the ARGK Metropolitan Revenge Team claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed a Tunisian and a Spanish tourist in the Covered Bazaar on Saturday.

The group appears to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, who have fought for Kurdish self-determination since 1984.