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Iraqi council member shot

Members of Iraq's Governing Council called Sunday for better security protection in the wake of an assassination attempt on one of their colleagues on Saturday.

Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women in the 25-member body, was in critical but stable condition after undergoing two operations, the top police adviser to the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority, Douglas Brand, said.

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The shooting shocked fellow members of the council, who have often been threatened but never before attacked.

"We have been shouting our heads off for the past two or three months because security is so abysmal," says Mowaffak al-Rubaie, an independent member of the council. "It's not right."

Ms. Hashimi, the only council member to have worked for the former regime of Saddam Hussein, was shot near her home as she drove to work on Saturday morning. She was accompanied by three bodyguards, one of whom was her brother.

No arrests have been made yet, a senior CPA official familiar with security affairs said.

A number of Iraqi officials working with the US-installed authorities have been killed, most recently the police chief in Khaldia, where anti-US feelings run high. "Threats are coming to anyone" who cooperates with the US forces, a senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Sunday. "People seeking to stop freedom in Iraq are everywhere."

Though foreign CPA officials are not allowed to travel outside their compounds without military security, senior Iraqi officials have had to rely on their own security arrangements.

Mr. Rubaie, for example, says he had hired 12 relatives, and armed them with three pistols and nine AK-47 assault rifles to defend him. "They have no training whatsoever, but they are prepared to die for me," he added.

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To improve his chances of surviving an attack, Rubaie says he had bought a bullet-proof vest, but could not afford the $250,000 price tag on an armored car even if such a vehicle were available in Iraq.

While some members of the Governing Council live in their own homes, as did Hashimi, others stay in a central Baghdad hotel, guarded by US troops.

"We have to strike a balance between protecting ourselves and not isolating ourselves from the people," Ruabie says. "We don't have any choice. This is our life."