Widower addresses Iraqi's death near San Diego

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By ELLIOT SPAGAT and JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press

LAKESIDE, Calif. (AP) — The husband of an Iraqi-American woman who was found bludgeoned to death with a threatening note beside her made his first public remarks Tuesday and demanded to know what motivated her killer.

Kassim Alhimidi addressing reporters at a mosque east of San Diego after a memorial service for 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi.

"The main question we would like to ask is what are you getting out of this and why did you do it?" Alhimidi said in Arabic as his 15-year-old son Mohammed translated.

Alhimidi urged anyone with information to contact law enforcement and thanked the Iraqi government for flying his wife's body to Iraq. He declined to answer reporters' questions after making brief remarks.

Alawadi, a mother of five who volunteered at her mosque, was taken off life support Saturday, three days after her teenage daughter found her unconscious in the dining room of the family home in El Cajon, one of the nation's largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants. Her daughter told a television station that the note said: "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

El Cajon police have declined to disclose the contents of the note but said say it has led investigators to regard the killing as a possible hate crime. Chief James Redman said Monday there was other evidence and called the killing an isolated incident.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions. He spoke with reporters at the mosque after meeting with the police chief and getting assurances from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that they were committed to solving the crime.

"We don't know the facts of this case," Al-Marayati said. "We don't know if it's a hate crime. We don't know if it's not a hate crime."

He urged the public to grieve for a family that fled persecution in Iraq and found tragedy in the United States.

The victim and her family left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising, living in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S., said Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn, Mich. Saddam's troops hanged Alawadi's uncle.

The family arrived in the Detroit area in 1993 and later moved to San Diego. Shaima Alawadi was a religious Shiite Muslim who wore a hijab, Al-Husainy said.

Alawadi's father, Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, is a cleric in Iraq, said Al-Husainy, who described himself as a close family friend.

Alawadi's body was taken to the San Diego airport Tuesday, headed for Najaf, Iraq, said Imam Sharif Battikhi of the American Islamic Services Foundation.

The FBI, which is assisting El Cajon police in the investigation, defines a hate crime as an offense motivated by a bias against race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. There were 1,409 hate crimes nationwide based on religion during 2010, including 186 targeting Muslims. There were 1,040 based on ethnicity or national origin, including 359 targeting groups other than Hispanics.

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Karoub reported from Detroit.

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