11/18/2004, 00.00
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Mutilated body found in Iraq appears to be Hassan's: Australian PM

Margarat Hassan "a martyr," says British cardinal Murphy-O'Connor

Sydney (AsiaNews/Afp) - The mutilated body of a Caucasian woman found in the Iraqi city of Fallujah earlier this week appears to be that of missing aid worker Margaret Hassan, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Thursday.

Mr Howard told parliament that there was every indication that Hassan was also the woman who appeared in a video received by Al-Jazeera on Tuesday showing an armed man shooting at a blind-folded woman.

"The body found in Fallujah appears to have been Margaret's and the video of the execution of a Western woman appears, on all the available information, to have been genuine," Mr Howard said.

The body of a blonde-haired woman with her legs and arms cut off and throat slit was found on Sunday lying on a street in Fallujah, a notorious Iraqi enclave for hostage-takers.

Hassan, 59, head of CARE International's Iraq operations, was seized in Baghdad on October 19 while on her way to work. She was married to an Iraqi, held British, Irish and Iraqi citizenship.

Mr Howard extended his sympathy to Hassan's family over the "despicable" killing.

"The inhumanity of Margaret Hassan's killers passes description. Such people are to be condemned without the slightest hesitation or qualification," he said.

Britain's Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has spoken of his "sadness and horror" at the execution of Iraq aid worker Margaret Hassan, whom he described as a "martyr".

Shortly after he heard the news, the cardinal called her sister, Deirdre, who lives in his diocese of Westminster.

"I can't tell you how sad I feel for you and your family," he told Deidre. "Margaret is a martyr for goodness, truth, and generosity. She dedicated her life to others, she will always be remembered for this."

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