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Iraq Transition

Humanitarian group founder killed in Iraq

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Jane Arraf remembers the humanitarian killed in Iraq.

Marla Ruzicka's parents say she was a bright light in a dark cloud.

A man identified as a U.S. hostage appears in video on Al-Jazeera.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An American founder of a humanitarian group for Iraqi civilian war casualties has been killed in a car bomb blast, a Western official said.

Marla Ruzicka, founder of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, was traveling Saturday near Baghdad International Airport when a car bomb exploded, killing her and her driver, the official said Sunday.

The U.S. Embassy is investigating and hasn't been able to determine if the attack was a suicide mission or a bomb that was remotely detonated, the official said.

It's also unknown whether Ruzicka's vehicle was associated with a three-car convoy of a U.S. nongovernmental organization, National Democratic Institute, that was traveling along the same road, the official added. That convoy may have been the target of the attack.

A Czech employee of a security firm hired to drive the convoy also was killed, said Les Campbell, regional director of the National Democratic Institute.

Ruzicka, 28, founded Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict in 2003, according to the group's Web site. Its mission is to "mitigate the impact of the conflict and its aftermath on the people of Iraq by ensuring that timely and effective life-saving assistance is provided to those in need."

She began a door-to-door survey of civilian casualties the day after a statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad in April 2003, the Web site said.

"Marla took her first report to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who sponsored legislation to provide U.S. aid to innocent Iraqis who were harmed in the military operations," the site said.

In Lakeport, California, Ruzicka's parents remembered their daughter as a young woman with "a tremendous open heart." (Full story)

"She'll be remembered as a person who could organize a plan to help others and to make a difference in their lives, and to perhaps change how the U.S. government and military will perhaps review future conflicts," her father, Clifford Ruzicka, said.

Nancy Ruzicka said her daughter began working with the human rights organization Global Exchange in high school, taking on assignments in Zimbabwe, the Middle East and Nicaragua.

Global Exchange leaders and former colleagues Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin said Ruzicka "loved big challenges, and she took them on with a radiant smile that could melt the coldest heart."

"We are somewhat consoled by the fact that Marla died doing what she really wanted to do: help people less fortunate than herself," Danaher and Benjamin said in a written statement. "Many of us believe that character trait to be the most beautiful quality a human being can possess. And Marla had an abundance of it."

Search for missing Shiites

Iraqi security forces moved into Madain, a village south of Baghdad, early Sunday, conducting door-to-door searches for Shiite Muslims reportedly kidnapped by Sunni Muslim insurgents, Iraqi police sources said.

Iraqi police sources said hostages in Madain included four to six Shiites who were in a mosque when insurgents attacked it Saturday.

Maj. Ammar Hassan al-Dakhily, an officer in the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Wolf Brigade, was shot to death in a battle with insurgents Saturday evening in Madain, police said. The fighting has prompted a few Shiite families to flee to Kut, police said.

Sunni Arabs dominated Saddam's government, while Shiites, who make up 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, were oppressed.

The majority-Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and a Kurdish bloc placed first and second, respectively, in the January 30 election for Iraq's transitional National Assembly. A Sunni Arab was elected speaker, and a Kurd and Shiite as deputy speakers.

Other developments

  • A blast from a roadside bomb south of Baghdad killed an American soldier late Sunday and wounded another, the U.S. military said. Also, mortars hit Saturday night in a U.S. military camp in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, killing three soldiers and wounding seven others, including three seriously, the military said. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 1,557, the military said.
  • Iraqi security forces captured the last of 11 detainees who escaped Saturday from a prison in southeastern Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition press office said Sunday. Authorities are investigating the escape from the prison, which houses more than 6,000 detainees. On Friday, an inmate brawl occurred there after a prisoner's death.
  • The U.S. Army said it has promoted missing soldier Keith Matthew Maupin to sergeant. The Army board of inquiry also maintained Maupin's status as "missing-captured." Maupin disappeared after an April 2004 attack on a fuel convoy. The military promotes a soldier listed as captured under the assumption the person is alive.
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces seized 27 suspected insurgents in raids in Mosul and Tal Afar on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. military said. Task Force Baghdad soldiers detained a former brigadier general with Saddam's intelligence service during a raid Friday, a military spokesman said. The military didn't name the general and said tips from informants and residents led to his capture in Baghdad.
  • The U.S. military reported Saturday that a a free-lance cameraman for CBS News detained after a gunbattle between U.S. forces and insurgents this month "tested positive for explosive residue." "Multinational forces continue to investigate potential collaboration between the stringer and terrorists, and allegations the stringer had knowledge of future terrorist attacks," Sgt. John Franzen said. (Full story)
  • CNN's Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin, Aneesh Raman and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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