NAJAF, Iraq (AP) – An Iraqi-American woman found bludgeoned to death in her California home last week with a threatening note left beside her body was buried in her native Iraq on Saturday. Family members wept uncontrollably by her graveside and her father asked God to exact revenge on those responsible for her death.
A relative called on Iraq’s government to take quick action to press U.S. authorities to reveal the results of the investigation into the killing of Iraqi-born Shaima Alawadi.
A 32-year-old mother of five, Alawadi was found unconscious by her daughter Fatima, 17, in the dining room of the family’s home in El Cajon, one of America’s largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants. Three days later, she was taken off life support.
No suspects have been identified or apprehended so far. California police have said the note had led investigators to regard the killing as a possible hate crime. Her daughter told a local TV station it read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
The family brought Alawadi’s body from the U.S. to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Saturday on a plane sent by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
From the Najaf airport, two police cars escorted a pickup truck carrying the casket, draped in an Iraqi flag, to the “Valley of Peace,” a large cemetery where many Shiites prefer to bury their dead. The cemetery is located close to the tomb of Imam Ali, a cousin of Islam’s seventh century Prophet Muhammad and founder of the Shiite faith.
Mourners offered a prayer for Alawadi’s soul at the tomb’s mosque before they took her body into the cemetery for burial.
Relatives, including women clad in black, wept uncontrollably as they watched the burial. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, and daughter fainted as the body was lowered into the grave.
“Oh God, take revenge on those responsible,” Alawadi’s father, Nabil Alawadi, screamed in anguish. “We are shocked by this criminal act against my daughter who called for love and tolerance.”
Haidar Alawadi, a relative, said the family was “totally surprised at the attitude of the Iraqi government,” which he said has not taken any action in the case. “What we want is the truth about this ugly crime,” he said.
But al-Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, told The Associated Press there was not much the government could do beyond urging U.S. authorities to “take every step needed to achieve justice, especially if this is related to hate crimes.”
“Such crimes must be stopped,” he added. “We have full trust in the U.S. justice system.”
The victim and her family left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The family lived in refugee camps in neighboring Saudi Arabia before going to the United States. Saddam’s troops had hanged Alawadi’s uncle.
The family arrived in the Detroit area in 1993 and later moved to San Diego. Shaima Alawadi was a religious Shiite Muslim who wore a hijab and volunteered at the local mosque.
El Cajon police have declined to confirm the contents of the note but say it has led investigators to regard the killing as a possible hate crime. Chief James Redman said Monday there was other evidence and called the killing an isolated incident.
The FBI, which is assisting El Cajon police in the investigation, defines a hate crime as an offense motivated by a bias against race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Juhi reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.
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