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Iraqi Officials React to Assassination Attempts - 2004-07-17

Iraq's new justice minister escaped an assassination attempt Saturday, but at least four other people were killed in a bomb blast near his convoy. Insurgents have vowed to kill interim government leaders in Iraq, claiming they are collaborators with coalition forces.

Saturday's blast was the latest in a string of recent assassination attempts on interim government officials, including one earlier this week against Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the killing of the governor of a northern province.

Working in a dangerous environment seems to affect Iraqi government officials in different ways. For example, Minister of Electricity Aiham Alsammare says many ministers lean on humor in order to cope with their fear. And sometimes, he says, they wonder why they continue to perform their duties.

"I know it's very bad to even sometimes joke on these things, but we start joking just to make ourselves forget the situation we are in," he said. "I mean, I don't even like to think when I leave home I will get shot today. However, there is a high possibility. And at the same time, the rewards. I'm not seeing it for me as an individual. Probably for my commitment to the people of Iraq, okay, I feel I am obliged to continue and finish the job. But really, it is, sometimes, I feel the thing I am paying is too much because we cannot even go outside."

However, the senior advisor to Iraq's interior minister, who is responsible for the country's internal security, is affected differently. Sabah Kadhim says such attacks make him even more determined to succeed.

"Oddly enough, I feel much stronger than before," said Sabah Kadhim. "And I feel that with the [other] ministers quite frankly. It seems the case where we feel we really have no option in this matter. It's almost as though someone is insulting the Iraqi people, and we feel someone has to stand up for them. And yes, we could all be victims, and it's really strengthened our resolve. Therefore, I am prepared to accept one day, I will be a victim. But, that's life. I hope to have left some legacy in this matter, no more."

Mr. Kadhim says the Interior Ministry is determined to put an end to the insurgency. But he says he's not sure that will be possible by the time elections in Iraq are supposed to be held, in January.

In the meantime, he says, he and the rest of the ministers will just keep doing their jobs, while trying to stay alive as best they can.