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Iraq: Spanish Diplomat Shot Dead In Baghdad

  • Valentinas Mite

Baghdad, 9 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A Spanish diplomat was shot and killed this morning near the house he was renting in Mansur, an upscale district of Baghdad.

Jose Antonio Bernal was the assistant political attache for the Spanish Embassy in the Iraqi capital. Spain has contributed about 1,300 troops to the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq.

Spanish officials in Baghdad declined to comment on Bernal's murder.

Ahmad is an Iraqi policeman who was guarding a Sudanese school near Bernal's house. He told our correspondent in Baghdad that around 8 a.m. today a brown Opel station wagon stopped near the house.

"A man dressed as a sheikh came out from the car. He said to the policemen, 'Salaam Aleikum.' He knocked on the door, and at that time [Bernal] came to the door. After several minutes, [Bernal] ran out from the house to the street shouting for help and pushing the sheikh."

Ahmad continues: "They started shooting at him. They shot several times at him and missed. In the end, they shot him dead. [The bullet] hit him in the head, and he fell down. And they came to us and threatened us. They said, 'Whoever moves, we'll kill him.' They got in the car and they went away."

Ahmad says he and his fellow guards were powerless to stop the killers because they are not allowed to carry guns while guarding a school building.

Another policeman, Awad, says he was also at the school building during the incident. He says the man dressed as a sheikh did not kill the diplomat. He says the diplomat was chased and killed by three other men who were together with the man in sheikh's clothes.

He says the killing occurred shortly after the diplomat's personal bodyguard left Bernal's house.

"The guard left [Bernal's house] more or less at 7 o'clock. The incident happened at 8 o'clock."

Police say they are interested in questioning Bernal's bodyguard about the shooting.

Bernal was in his early 30s. He was recently married and had a 2-year-old daughter. His family lives in Spain.

Bernal worked in Iraq for a year and a half before the fall of Baghdad and continued in his post after Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

An RFE/RL correspondent who arrived at the scene a few hours after the murder found Bernal's house surrounded by Iraqi policemen and Spanish guards. The Spanish diplomat's body was still inside.

American military police arrived at the scene four hours after the shooting.