msnbc.com news services
updated 1/15/2005 8:02:28 AM ET 2005-01-15T13:02:28

A woman pulled a pistol on Iraq’s defense minister in his office but then broke down in tears in a failed assassination plot hatched by an Iraqi group in Syria, the minister said in comments published on Saturday. Hazim al-Shaalan told the pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper the 40-year-old woman had drawn the gun, loaded with poisoned bullets, during a meeting with him and other officials more than one week ago.

Later on Saturday, the Iraqi defense ministry confirmed the Arab daily's report.

The woman had entered the office saying she wanted to pass on some important security information to Shaalan.

“She surprised everyone by taking out a gun she was carrying and directing it towards him at a distance of one meter. However after a moment she collapsed and began to cry,” al-Hayat said.

The woman, an Arab from Kirkuk, was the wife of a man currently jailed for involvement in a Baghdad car bombing.

Shaalan said the plan had been hatched by a Syria-based Iraqi group led by Mohamed Younes al-Ahmed, an Iraqi Baath party official. Sabaawi Ibrahim, a half brother of Saddam Hussein, was also involved in the plot, he said.

Shaalan said the woman had revealed a wider plot involving a group of 50 women chosen “to carry out terrorist operations and assassinations in Iraq.” The women were the wives or relatives of people jailed for or killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces and U.S.-led forces. Shaalan said they had undergone training in Syria “under the supervision of Iraqi terrorist elements living there.” Iranian religious men had also supervised the training, he said.

The women had then been sent to different Iraqi ministries and state institutions, he said.

Shaalan has repeatedly accused Syria and Iran of backing rebels in Iraq. Damascus and Tehran deny the accusations.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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