updated 1/18/2007 4:34:36 PM ET 2007-01-18T21:34:36

An al-Qaida-linked coalition of Iraqi Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility Thursday for an attack on a convoy of a Western democracy institute that killed an Ohio woman along with three security contractors in Baghdad.

The Washington-based National Democratic Institute identified its slain staffer as Andrea "Andi" Parhamovich of Perry in northeast Ohio. Three security contractors from Hungary, Croatia and Iraq also were killed in the ambush Wednesday. Two were wounded, one seriously.

Parhamovich, 28, a graduate of Marietta College, had been working with NDI in Iraq since late 2006 as a communications specialist advising Iraqi political parties on how to reach out to voters and constituents. She was helping "build the kind of national level political institutions that can help bridge the sectarian divide and improve Iraqi lives," NDI said.

Telephone messages left at a home number listed under Parhamovich's name on Thursday were not immediately returned.

"It's a sad time," said Perry High School principal Doug Jenkins, the middle school principal when Parhamovich attended the senior high school.

NDI's chairman, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, said, "There is no more sacred roll of honor than those who have given their last full measure in support of freedom. Yesterday, in Iraq, Andrea Parhamovich and our security personnel were enshrined on that list.

"They did not see themselves as heroes, only people doing a job on behalf of a cause they believed in. They were not the enemies of anyone in Iraq; they were there to help," Albright said.

The institute supports democratic processes and institutions worldwide. Its staffers in Baghdad run training programs in democracy and political participation, as well as women's rights. The group has had staffers in Iraq since June 2003.

Wednesday attack
Gunmen opened fire on the three-vehicle convoy on Wednesday in Yarmouk, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad.

"Praise be to God, in an attack with light and medium weapons and RPG's in the Yarmouk area in Baghdad on Jan. 17, two SUVs belonging to the Zionist Mossad were destroyed and a third one was severely damaged," said a statement posted Thursday on an Islamic Web site.

The statement was signed by the spokesman of the "Islamic state in Iraq," the so-called Islamic government that al-Qaida in Iraq and several other Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgent groups declared earlier last year. The statement's authenticity could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a Web forum where Sunni insurgents often release messages.

The group did not say anything about how many were killed or their nationalities but al-Qaida, usually refers to foreigners whose nationalities unknown to it as members of the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

Parhamovich was the first full-time worker for the group to be killed in Iraq. A security contractor for the organization was killed in March 2004.

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