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Activist Killed in Car Blast; Iraqi Forces Search for Hostages

BY Admin  April 18, 2005 at 1:20 PM EST

Marla Ruzicka, 28, founder of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, died Saturday when a bomb incinerated the car she and two others — an Iraqi and another foreigner — were driving, according to news reports.

Ruzicka had been in Iraq conducting door-to-door surveys aimed at tallying the number of civilian casualties in the country.

She founded CIVIC in 2003 to “mitigate the impact of the conflict and its aftermath on the people of Iraq by ensuring that timely and effective life-saving assistance is provided to those in need,” according to the group’s Web site.

Ruzicka was instrumental in ensuring millions of dollars in U.S. aid funding for Iraqis. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said it was her idea to put a special fund in last year’s foreign aid bill to help Iraqis.

“She was constantly calling us to say [lawmakers were] moving too slowly,” he said, reported the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces raided Madain, a small farming town south of Baghdad, Monday but found little evidence that 150 Shiites were being held hostage as Shiite politicians had earlier reported.

The politicians had said Sunni militants were threatening to kill the hostages unless the entire Shiite population left town, but other government leaders said the Shiite politicians may have exaggerated the claim in order to get political leverage in negotiations over the formation of the new Iraqi government, according to Reuters.

Troops from the Interior Ministry’s special commando unit searched Madain for hours on Monday.

“We found no hostages and we have arrested no terrorists,” Col. Abu al-Jau, deputy commander of the commando brigade, told Reuters.

Also Monday, a roadside bomb killed two policemen and injured six as their two patrol cars drove through Basra in southern Iraq, said police Capt. Alaa Hasan, the AP reported.