The coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad, apparently for wearing shorts, in a district where Islamic radicals have started to enforce brutal, Taleban-style law.
Hussein Ahmed Rashid was shot at close range with two of his players, Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda, in the al-Saidiyah neighbourhood, a national Olympic Committee official said.
One of the players, wearing shorts, had left the car to drop off some items at a laundry. When he returned to the vehicle, gunmen in a grey saloon car swerved and blocked the players’ car, witnesses said.
Three men in civilian clothes surrounded the car and ordered the passengers to get out. When they refused, one of the men produced a revolver and shot the players. The coach sat helplessly in the back while the assailants dragged out the players’ bodies and dumped them in the road. Then one of the assailants cocked a handgun and shot the coach in the head.
The dead men were wearing green sports jerseys emblazoned with the word “Iraq”. One of the shirts bore an Olympics patch.
An Iraqi National Guard checkpoint was about 100m from the site of the ambush, but the soldiers did nothing, witnesses said. They added that gunmen had used the same car in the past two months during attacks on the owner of an electrical parts shop and a pedestrian. Local people suspect that the murders have been carried out by the Islamic militants roaming al-Saidiyah and the adjoining district of al-Amariyah.
Radicals have been leaving leaflets at homes, forbidding women to drive or go outside without being veiled. The leaflet also warns men not to wear shorts or dress in T-shirts bearing images or English writing.
In addition, the leaflet forbids men from wearing goatee beards and anyone from buying mayonnaise. The leaflet threatens violators with death.
Islamic militants hold immense power in western and southern Baghdad, and they have been known to kill barbers who give American-style haircuts. The area is regarded as being as off limits to Westerners, where a visit can spell instant death.