SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq — Shawkat Haji Mushir died writing the words "live always."
The Kurdish legislator was assassinated last weekend as he attempted to negotiate a surrender agreement for 121 guerrillas of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group in northern Iraq. As he wrote the two-page agreement -- a blood-splattered copy of which was obtained Monday by The Times -- he was shot in the head with a Kalashnikov rifle by a guerrilla who had deceived him. The pen stopped in the middle of the Kurdish salutation.
Mushir's slaying marked a weekend of killing and kidnapping as the Islamist group seized a third hostage and announced that its attacks were in response to the secular Kurdish government's attempts to "destroy the steel lines of the holy warriors and make them mercenaries and servants."
The rhetoric and tactics of Ansar al-Islam have grown more dramatic since last week, when U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell claimed the group is tied to Al Qaeda and manufactures chemical agents along the Iranian border. The assassination and kidnappings have stunned the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which governs the eastern portion of northern Iraq and has been unable to route Ansar guerrillas from their mountain caves and bunkers.
The group's newest hostage is a PUK member captured in Khurmal, a town controlled by Komaly Islami, a Muslim group whose territory borders a handful of villages held by Ansar. The two organizations once had overlapping interests, but in recent months Komaly has softened its extremism and improved relations with the PUK.
Two other PUK members were kidnapped Saturday after Ansar killed Mushir and five others. Those slayings were orchestrated the same night two PUK soldiers were shot and their bodies burned at a checkpoint near the city of Chamchamal. PUK security officials suggest that the recent attacks came as Ansar faces a defining moment as it attempts to survive amid the possibility of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"There is a split opening within Ansar," said Kakamand Kakarush, a PUK military commander. "Some of them want to defect. Some want to continue fighting and begin suicide bombings. Others are planning for one big event before they disappear."
Mushir was assassinated, according to PUK security officials, as he attempted to secretly negotiate the surrender of Ansar fighters who intimated they wanted to defect. He had been meeting for months with members of one of Ansar's strongest factions, known as Tawhid. Part of the deal included paying the militants to jump sides.
"We have an objective of destroying Ansar, including dividing them," said a senior PUK official. "If we didn't do that, it'd be stupid."
Officials said Ansar members deceived Mushir and lured him to the village of Gamesh Tapa, where he spoke for 45 minutes with a guerrilla named Ali Teezha. After the meeting, Mushir began writing an agreement outlining terms that would allow defecting militants to form their own party, provided they supported the liberation of the ethnic Kurds and "are splitting away from Ansar al-Islam and that you are ... not hostile to any Kurdish or Islamic force." He was killed before he finished. "As he was signing it, boom," said the senior PUK official.
Ansar claimed responsibility for the killing on its Web site. It said the "plotters" of PUK leader Jalal Talabani attempted to "split up and weaken" the organization by enticing 150 jihad warriors with "an unimaginable amount of money." The group claims Mushir gave an Ansar representative $5,000.
The PUK's plan, according to the Web site, was to siphon away fighters from Ansar to more easily defeat it and to use those fighters against the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the PUK's political rival, which controls the western region of northern Iraq.
The PUK and the KDP have a history of conflict. About 3,500 people were killed in a war between them in 1996. But under U.S. pressure, the two groups have muffled their animosities in recent years and built a quasi-democratic society protected from Baghdad's troops by a "no-fly" zone patrolled by U.S. and British warplanes.
PUK Prime Minister Barham Salih denied Ansar's assertions that its defecting fighters would be turned on the KDP. "Absolutely not," he said. Mushir was one of the PUK's best negotiators, Salih said, adding, "It was an elaborate ploy.... We are all flabbergasted that he could be led down this trap. I will sorely miss him."