Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WP: 4 Americans Die in Attack During Sadr City Meeting

In today's Washington Post:

4 Americans Die in Attack During Sadr City Meeting
State Dept. Governance Specialist Is Among Victims

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service

BAGHDAD, June 24 -- Steven L. Farley, a State Department official working to build up the local government in the Baghdad enclave of Sadr City, knew he and his colleagues had taken a bold step, his son Brett recalled Tuesday.

Farley and other U.S. officials had learned that the Sadr City District Council's acting chairman was loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and had urged other members of the local advisory group to force the man to resign.

That was last week. On Tuesday, Farley, 57, and three other Americans were killed when a bomb exploded in the District Council building, just minutes before the selection of a new chairman was to begin.

Capitalizing on recent security gains in Iraq, U.S. soldiers and diplomats have waded deep into Iraqi politics in an effort to build moderate and responsive government bodies that they hope will erode the appeal of extremists.

Tuesday's attack, which came a day after an enraged former council member in a small town south of Baghdad fatally shot two U.S. soldiers after a meeting, underscored how perilous that mission remains.

"He was a great father and a patriot," Farley's oldest son, Brett, 31, said in a telephone interview from Crescent, Okla. "He said plainly that he was willing to die doing this. He was willing to die for his country."

U.S. officials did not identify the three other Americans killed in the attack. One was a civilian who worked for the Department of Defense and the two others were soldiers. A third American soldier was wounded.


Brett Farley said he learned of the events that preceded the bombing from his father. Sadr City District Council member Jawad Attabi and Maj. Ahmed Khalaf Hussein, an Iraqi army official in Sadr City familiar with the investigation, corroborated the account.

The bomb detonated about 9:30 a.m. inside the council building, which is in the southern portion of the vast Shiite area, a stronghold of Sadr's. The district, home to roughly 2 million people, is the launching site for most rockets fired into the Green Zone, the fortified area housing many U.S. and Iraqi officials, and is the nucleus of anti-American sentiment and rhetoric in Iraq.


The security gains encouraged Farley, his son said. "The floodgates were now open," he recalled his father saying. "He was very enthusiastic."


Brett Farley said his father embraced his work. In February, he and a colleague traveled with Iraqi council members to the United States to give them a glimpse of local politics in American cities.

Steven Farley was moved by the Iraqi representatives' determination, his son said, noting that several had been assassinated.

"He called them his Iraqi brothers," he said. "These were more than just diplomatic relations."

Tuesday's attack appeared to target Hassan Hussein Shammah, the deputy council chief. He and another council member were wounded in the attack, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

U.S. troops took three men into custody. U.S. military officials found traces of explosives on the men's hands, said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a U.S. military spokesman.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Berlin that Tuesday's attack was a reminder of the risks U.S. diplomats are taking in Iraq. She lauded Farley, of Guthrie, Okla.

"He was one of the hundreds of dedicated men and women serving on Provincial Reconstruction Teams, helping the citizens of Iraq to rebuild and revitalize their local governments," Rice said.

Farley was deployed to Iraq as a Navy Reserve officer and was hired by the State Department last year. His contract would have been up for renewal next April, his son said.


You can read the entire piece here.

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