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Assyrian Sisters Killed in Drive-by Shooting in Basra

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 at 01:34 PM CT


Janet and Shatha AudishoBaghdad (REUTERS) — Two Assyrian sisters, Janet and Shatha Audisho, working for Bechtel, were killed in a drive-by shooting last Tuesday near their home in the southern city of Basra.

Their father, Sadah Audisho, said he had been waiting at the window for his daughters to return from work when he heard gunshots and saw a white pick-up truck speeding past.

"I had been waiting for my daughters to come home at five o'clock," said Audisho, an Assyrian Christian who works and lives in the church with his family.

"One car blocked the taxi, two men ran out and fired point blank at the women, killing them in one blow," a neighbor said, who refused to divulge his name.

The taxi driver received two bullet wounds in the leg, he said.

"The two bodies have been taken back to Mosul ... for burial," the neighbor said.

The Audisho family moved to Basra from the northern city of Mosul in 1981 and Sadah worked at the Assyrian church in the Kut al-Hejjaj district.

"I picked one of them up and she was dead. I went to pick up the other but found her dead too," Sadah said Wednesday, his shirt still stained with blood from the night before.

Neighbors said men in the truck had opened fire on the girls' car.

Janet and Shatha, aged 38 and 25, worked for U.S. company Bechtel, the father said. Bechtel, a U.S. firm headquartered in San Francisco, has been awarded major infrastructure reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Bechtel, the US construction and engineering giant, is contracted by US AID on at least 50 reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

Audisho familyBechtel had no immediate comment on the deaths.

The driver who had been taking the sisters to and from their jobs at Basra Airport, was wounded. Bechtel officials in Iraq were not immediately available for comment.

"We had received no threats," he said. "We are peaceful people, just making a living."

Attacks on Iraqi translators and others working with U.S. companies in Iraq are common. There have been numerous reports of attacks on Christians and shopkeepers selling alcohol in largely Shi'ite Muslim Basra since the U.S.-led war last year.

Insurgents have intensified a campaign of assassinations, bombings and attacks on oil infrastructure ahead of the transition from U.S.-led occupation to Iraqi rule on June 30. Most of the victims have been ordinary Iraqis.

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