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Hailing Iraqi Sunni Killed Helping Shi'a Victims

Envoy Hails Iraqi Sunni Killed While Helping Shi'a Stampede Victims

Othman al-Obeidi saved six people from Tigris before falling to his death

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad has praised the heroism of Othman al-Obeidi, a young Sunni man who lost his life while attempting to rescue Shi’a pilgrims who fell into the Tigris River August 31 as the result of a panicked stampede over the Adhamyia bridge in Baghdad, Iraq.

In a September 6 news release, Khalilzad likened al-Obeidi to the New York City firefighters who gave their lives while saving hundreds of people in the World Trade Center on September 11. Al-Obeidi managed to pull six people from the river before falling in and drowning while attempting to save a seventh person.

“It did not matter to him that they were Shi’a, while he was Sunni,” Khalilzad said. “His fellow Iraqi citizens were in a time of need and he did what I hope many other Iraqis have in their hearts to do -- he offered a hand.”

The ambassador also praised the people of Fallujah, Iraq, for holding a blood drive to help the victims of the stampede.

“These demonstrations of cooperation and humanitarianism should be the path Iraqis take to live and work together for the betterment of their nation,” he said.

Following is the text of Khalilzad’s news release:

(begin text)

Embassy of the United States of America
Baghdad, Iraq
News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2005
Contact: Peter Mitchell
Embassy Spokesman
Phone: (914) 360-6452
Iraqna: 07901 819-314
Email: MitchellPJ@state.gov

STATEMENT BY
AMBASSADOR ZALMAY KHALILZAD
Othman al-Obeidi
September 6, 2005

As Iraqis still mourn the unnecessary and tragic loss of so many innocent lives last week at the Adhamyia bridge, I hope they take time to remember the hero among them. His name is Othman al-Obeidi who lived on the island of Waq Waq.

I have heard the story of Othman al-Obeidi, the 25-year-old Iraqi Sunni, who managed to save six people, all Shi’a, from the river during the chaos of the stampede. Unfortunately he too perished while trying to rescue a seventh victim.

On 9-11, the New York City firefighters bravely and without thought to their own lives went up into the Twin Towers to save people in need, while others in the building were trying to go down. Like the firefighters, Othman saw his fellow man in trouble and went forward into the waters to help. It did not matter to him that they were Shi’a, while he was Sunni. His fellow Iraqi citizens were in a time of need and he did what I hope many other Iraqis have in their hearts to do - he offered a hand. The Iraqi government has honored Mr. al-Obeidi’s heroism with civil service status and will be providing his family with his pension benefits, which is to be commended.

In addition, the people of Fallujah pursued a blood drive campaign for those in need from the incident. Others in Fallujah have helped, such as the Sunni Endowment, by providing vehicles to transport the blood to different hospitals in the Baghdad area. This is symbolic of the kind of country Iraq can be.

In the wake of the tragedy Iraqis should take Othman’s selflessness and ability to see past sectarian differences to help his fellow citizens as a model to go forward and honor his memory with. These demonstrations of cooperation and humanitarianism should be the path Iraqis take to live and work together for the betterment of their nation.

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