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US envoy regrets death of Swiss-Iraqi man

Ambassador Willeford says she will do her best to clarify the fatal shooting

(Keystone)

The United States ambassador to Bern has expressed regret to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey over last week’s killing of a Swiss-Iraqi man.

During a meeting with US envoy Pamela Willeford on Tuesday, Calmy-Rey expressed her "dismay" about the fatal shooting and repeated a call for a rapid clarification of the circumstances.

Salah Jmor, who came from the Kurdish north of Iraq, was killed near the capital, Baghdad, last Tuesday as his car travelled past a US patrol.

The incident leading to the death of Jmor was "discussed in depth" at the talks in Bern, according to Ivo Sieber, head of information at the Swiss foreign ministry.

Sieber commented that Willeford had assured Calmy-Rey that the US embassy would do all it could to shed light on the circumstances.

Mistake?

The foreign ministry two days ago called on the US authorities to launch an investigation into what appeared to be a mistake by the US army.

"Once the American response has been received, we will decide on possible additional steps," Sieber said.

At the US embassy, spokesman Daniel Wendell commented: "We are in the process of gathering information."

He added that it was too early to say how long an investigation by the Pentagon would take.

"At this stage it is an American inquiry," said Wendell, who refused to speculate on a possible participation of Swiss authorities in the investigations.

Independent investigation

On Monday, the Social Democratic Party of Geneva, of which Jmor was a member, called for an "independent" investigation with the participation of both Swiss and Iraqi authorities.

Jmor, aged 49 and of Kurdish origin, died on June 28 in a car being driven by his brother on a motorway near Baghdad.

According to his family, he was hit by a bullet fired by a US soldier from a convoy of three military vehicles.

"I was driving when I heard a sharp snap. My brother collapsed. I did not even know who fired because we were slightly behind the Americans... Then I saw the blood flowing," said Abdel Jabbar.

Police blocked the road and the US patrol came back.

Jabbar told the French news agency AFP that two or three soldiers got out of their vehicles, saw his brother and simply said that they were sorry. An ambulance then arrived and took Jmor away from the scene.

Justice

Relatives are now demanding justice. "The guilty have to be brought to justice and the US army must pay the price for spilled blood," said Abdel Rahmane, the 70-year-old father of the victim.

Jmor’s wife, who has lived in Switzerland since 1990 and has Swiss citizenship, has said she will fight to the end and has made an appeal to the Swiss authorities.

"I am not counting on the Iraqi authorities who are in the hands of [US president George] Bush. I am putting my faith in the Swiss government because it is a country of human rights and justice," she said.

"I am calling on it to obtain justice from the United States for my husband and sons," she added.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Iraqi-Kurd, Salah Jmor, had lived in Switzerland for 25 years.
He was a graduate of the Graduate Institute for International Studies.
He was a member of the Social Democratic party in Geneva for the past five years.
Jmor supported the rights of Kurds, publishing a book on the issue.
Opposed to the US intervention in Iraq, Jmor had it seems been sounded out about becoming a member of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq.

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