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Iraqi beating victim mourned

The husband of Shaima Alawadi pleads for help in finding her killer.

March 28, 2012|Tony Perry
  • Kassim Al-Himidi with the body of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, during a memorial service.
Kassim Al-Himidi with the body of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, during a memorial… (Nelvin C. Cepeda / Associated…)

LAKESIDE, CALIF — The husband of an Iraqi immigrant who was savagely beaten in the couple's El Cajon home issued an emotional plea Tuesday for help in finding the killer "of this innocent woman."

Kassim Al-Himidi told reporters after an Islamic memorial service for his wife, Shaima Alawadi, that he wants to confront the person who bludgeoned her to death and left a threatening note telling her to return to their native country and calling her a terrorist.

"The main question we want to ask," Al-Himidi said in Arabic, with English translation provided by his 15-year-old son Mohammed, "is 'what are you getting out of this? Why did you do this?' "

Alawadi, 32, the mother of five, was found unconscious a week ago, her head bashed with a tire iron. Her family opted Saturday to take her off life support. Her body will be taken to Iraq, where her father is a Shia cleric in the holy city of Najaf.

Alawadi was discovered by the couple's 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, who also reported finding the note near her mother's bloody body.

A similar note was taped to the front door several days earlier, she told police, although that note was not preserved.

El Cajon police have not ruled out the possibility that the killing was a hate crime. But Police Chief Jim Redman also said that there is "other evidence" besides the note and that police have not determined a motive or identified a suspect or even a "person of interest."

Redman said police are confident the killing is "an isolated incident" and not part of a campaign of violence aimed at the large Iraqi immigrant community in the suburbs east of San Diego.

Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the San Diego branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that except for occasional insults, there have been no indications of discord between immigrants and other residents.

A memorial service for Alawadi at the Islamic Center of Lakeside, which serves as a mosque, drew more than 100 people. Weeping uncontrollably, Al-Himidi threw himself on his wife's linen shroud, which was covered with red roses.

Afterward, his composure returned, Al-Himidi and his oldest son talked to reporters.

Basam Al-Hussaini, an official of the Iraqi government, acting as a representative of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, likened Alawadi's killer to "the same filthy hands, those same terrorists who want to kill our people" throughout Iraq in the post-Saddam Hussein era.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, referred to Alawadi and her husband as "a family that fled persecution and unfortunately met calamity here."

Alawadi came to the U.S. in the mid-1990s after living for two years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia. Imam Sharif Battikhi of the American Islamic Services Foundation in San Diego called on the community to "stand for justice and peace.

"As American citizens ... we stand not to hurt each other but to help one another," he said.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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