BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying a member of the Iraqi Governing Council (search) as she was returning Thursday to Baghdad from mediation efforts in Najaf. The council member survived but at least one bodyguard was killed and her son was missing, aides said.
Salama al-Khafaji (search) was in a three-vehicle convoy that came under fire in the town of Yusufiyah. A bodyguard was killed and another was critically wounded, according to chief aide Fateh Kashef al-Ghataa.
He said the car carrying al-Khafaji's 18-year-old son, Ahmed Fadel, plunged into an irrigation canal, and survivors said they saw him swimming away. However, he was still missing, Kashef al-Ghataa said.
"Everyone fought the attackers, including Ahmed," Kashef al-Ghataa said.
It was unclear whether al-Khafaji was wounded in the attack. Kashef al-Ghataa said only that she was taken to a "secret location" for security reasons.
The ambush occurred 10 days after the head of the Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, was assassinated in a suicide car-bombing as he waited to enter the heavily guarded Green Zone, the Baghdad headquarters of the U.S.-run occupation authority.
A group believed led by Al Qaeda-linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) claimed responsibility in a message posted on an Islamist Web site.
However, the attack against al-Khafaji took place in an area notorious for ambushes and carjackings, and it was unclear whether she was specifically targeted. Vehicle convoys are especially vulnerable to such attacks because Iraqis associate them with civilian contractors and security agents working for the occupation.
Al-Khafaji is one of three women on the Governing Council. She replaced another Shiite woman member, Aquila al-Hashemi, who was mortally wounded in September during an ambush near her Baghdad home.
Al-Khafaji was among several Shiite council members who traveled to Najaf on Thursday to help nail down a deal to stop the fighting in the holy city between U.S. soldiers and Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search).
A professor of dentistry at Baghdad University, al-Khafaji has been a rising star on the Iraqi political scene since she joined the Governing Council in December.
Her conservative dress — a black chador that covers her entire body except for the face — makes her an exception among professional women in Iraq, most of whom wear headscarves or no traditional Islamic covering at all.
She told The Associated Press in a recent interview that she objected to military solutions to the standoff with al-Sadr or the fighting between Sunni insurgents and U.S. Marines in the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad.
On Wednesday, she told the AP in a telephone interview that she planned to continue working on "the Iraqi street" after the demise of the Governing Council on June 30, when a transitional government is scheduled to take over from the U.S.-led coalition.
"I have always worked on the street with the masses. Joining the Governing Council helped me help people more," she said.
She also suggested that she would run for a seat in parliament in the general election due to be held by Jan. 31.