UNITED NATIONS - A convicted terrorist hanged for his role in a series of bombings in Iraq had also confessed to organizing the 2003 destruction of United Nations headquarters in Baghdad -- an attack that left two Canadians among 22 dead.
The UN spoke out in Baghdad on the execution of Awraz Abdul-Aziz Mahmoud Sa'id, saying the world body opposes the death penalty and stressing the "importance of fair trial principles."
However, no UN official informed the parents of the Canadian victims of the development, which Iraqi authorities say took place on July 3.
"Ultimately, it makes no difference to the way I feel," said Olive Clark, a Toronto resident, whose daughter Gillian, 47, had been on loan to Unicef, but was employed by the Christian Children's Fund.
"I'll never get over losing her, but it gets a little easier as time goes on, and I refuse to let it really take over my life because then they'd have another casualty."
John and Betsy Klein-Beekman, parents of Christopher Klein- Beekman, 31, who had worked directly for Unicef, display the same plucky determination.
"With all that happens in Iraq, I'm not even sure this guy was the mastermind," said Betsy from her home in Courtenay, B.C.
"Here we just try to think about Christopher when he was alive, and what he would be doing. We just focus on the beautiful memories, because he had so much to live for."
Busho Ibrahim, undersecretary at the Iraqi Justice Ministry, announced on July 6 that Iraq had executed Mahmoud three days earlier. But in listing the convicted man's crimes, he didn't mention the attack on UN headquarters on Aug. 19, 2003, which remains the biggest ever attack on the world body.
Instead, Mr. Ibrahim detailed Mahmoud's confessions to roles in other high profile attacks that year and in 2004, in particular a car bombing that killed a major Shiite leader and 82 others at a Najaf mosque 10 days after the attack on the UN.
"Awraz was executed following the guilty verdict for the killing of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim," said Mr. Ibrahim, explaining U.S. forces had arrested him in 2005.
Iraqi officials often cite the Najaf bombing as the first major attack of the insurgency, but the earlier strike against the UN headquarters led the world body and other international organizations to withdraw from the country.
The UN had set up in Baghdad's Canal Hotel. A suicide bomber parked a truck laden with explosives outside, then detonated them.
Ashraf Qazi, the UN's special representative in Iraq, this week identified Mahmoud as having been convicted additionally in the UN headquarters attack.
A Unicef official said yesterday the agency was unaware of the link and so hadn't been able to inform the parents of the Canadian victims of the development.
Mr. Qazi's office said Iraq's Central Criminal Court convicted Mahmoud on March 30, 2006. It added the country's Court of Cassation upheld his death sentence Aug. 30, 2006, and the Presidency Council later ratified it.
The statement called on Iraq to "abolish the death penalty and prevent further executions."
Apart from helping Iraq with elections, the UN has played only a small role in the country since the bombing.
But the UN Security Council is this week considering a draft resolution proposed by the United States and Britain that calls on the world body to help the Iraqis on several new political fronts.
Mr. Ibrahim said Mahmoud, who came from the northern city of Mosul and had several aliases, also confessed to a November, 2003, attack that killed 17 Italian soldiers and two Italian civilians.
That marked Italy's worst military loss since the Second World War.
Mr. Ibrahim said Mahmoud admitted to the May, 2004, killing of Abdel-Zahraa Othman, president of Iraq's Governing Council, a U.S.- appointed body that at the time ran Iraq.
The most high profile of the UNHQ victims was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN's Human Rights Commissioner, who had been temporarily leading the UN mission in the country.
Credit: CanWest News Service
(Copyright National Post 2007)