NAJAF, Iraq – The family of an Iraqi-American woman found bludgeoned to death in her California home last week, with a threatening note left beside her, brought her body to Iraq on Saturday for burial.
A plane carrying the Iraqi-born Shaima Alawadi landed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
Two police cars escorted a pickup truck carrying her casket, draped in an Iraqi flag, from the airport to the "Valley of Peace," a large cemetery where many Shiites prefer to bury their dead.
The cemetery, thought to be the world's largest, is located close to the tomb of Imam Ali, a cousin of Islam's seventh century Prophet Muhammad and founder of the Shiite faith. Mourners offered a prayer for Alawadi's soul at the tomb's mosque before they took her body into the cemetery for burial.
The 32-year-old Alawadi, a mother of five, was found unconscious by her teenage daughter in the dining room of the family's home in El Cajon, one of America's largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants. Three days later, she was taken off life support.
A note saying: "Go back to your country, you terrorist," was found near her body, the daughter told a local TV station.
El Cajon police declined to disclose the contents of the note but said it had led investigators to regard the killing as a possible hate crime.
"We are shocked by this criminal act against my daughter who called for love and tolerance," said Alawadi's father, Nabil Alawadi.
From the funeral, relative Haidar Alawadi called on the Iraqi government to take quick action to press U.S. authorities to reveal the results of the investigation into Alawadi's killing. No suspects have been identified or apprehended so far.
"We are totally surprised at the attitude of the Iraqi government, which has not taken any action. What we want is the truth about this ugly crime," he said.
The plane that brought Alawadi's body home to Iraq was dispatched by Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The victim and her family left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein, living in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S. Saddam's troops had 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 and volunteered at the local mosque.