Popular Iraqi TV Comedian Killed; Ministers Attacked

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There has been no letup in the violence in Iraq, with the killing of a popular TV comedian and the attempted assassination of an Iraqi politician both coming Monday. Iraqi and U.S. officials say a mass kidnapping last week at a government office in downtown Baghdad was possibly an inside job.

Baghdad's privately-owned Al-Sharqiyah TV television network switched to special coverage this evening to honor Walid Hassan, one of Iraq's most famous comedians, after news of his killing broke. Hassan's body was found with three bullet wounds to the head in the Yarmuk district of west Baghdad.

Hassan performed in a weekly satire called "Caricature" that aired every Friday, poking fun at seemingly every organization or legal entity in Iraq.

One night would find him playing a uniformed bodyguard to an Iraqi politician, pushing people out of the politician's path in the heavy-handed, offensive way Iraqis have grown accustomed to.

Another night, Hassan would be the temperamental maintenance man for a neighborhood generator, hiking his fees whenever the cost of fuel rose.

Violence continued elsewhere in Iraq, as well. Hakim al-Zamily, a Shiite deputy health minister, survived a drive-by shooting on his convoy in downtown Baghdad, but two of his guards were killed.

The other deputy health minister, Ammar al Safar, was kidnapped from his home last night by men dressed in police uniforms.

Iraq's higher education minister and the ministers of interior and defense held an unusual joint news conference to talk about last week's mass kidnapping at a higher education office in central Baghdad. But they couldn't agree on the numbers of those missing.



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