Husband arrested in murder probe

The husband of an Iraqi-American woman whose beating death eight months ago drew international attention because it appeared to be a hate crime has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Police in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon arrested Kassim Alhimidi, 48, and described the killing as an act of domestic violence.

The March killing of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi made waves around the world after the couple's 17-year-old daughter told reporters she found a note by her mother's bludgeoned body that read: "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

But the case took a different direction on Thursday when Alhimidi was taken into custody after being called into a police station, said El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman, who declined to comment on the evidence or possible motive. He said there are no other suspects.

"Criminal investigations build, evidence builds, and you reach a point where you have enough evidence to move forward, and that's what happened in this case," he said.

Alhimidi went to Iraq for about two weeks to bury his wife and returned voluntarily, Mr Redman said. Police did not try to prevent him from leaving the country because he was not a suspect at the time.

At the burial in Najaf, relatives wept uncontrollably. Alhimidi and 17-year-old daughter Fatima fainted as the body was lowered into the grave.

Alhimidi was publicly silent for six days after the body was found, while his children spoke often with reporters.

In his first public remarks - made at a news conference at the family's mosque in Lakeside - he demanded to know what motivated the killer.

"The main question we would like to ask is what are you getting out of this and why did you do it?" Alhimidi said in Arabic at the time as his 15-year-old son translated.

Charges against Alhimidi are expected to be filed on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney's office said.

The killing shocked residents of El Cajon, an east San Diego suburb and home to one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants in the United States.

Police initially said the threatening note meant they had to consider the killing a possible hate crime but stressed that was only one theory. They said there was other evidence and that the murder was an isolated case, easing concerns that other immigrants could be targets.

Ms Alawadi, a mother-of-five, left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shia uprising. She lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before arriving in the US, according to Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Centre in Michigan. Saddam Hussein's troops hanged her uncle.

The family arrived in the Detroit area in 1993 and later moved to San Diego. Ms Alawadi was a religious Shia Muslim who wore a hijab.

The investigation appeared to hit a snag when a court employee inadvertently gave a reporter a search warrant affidavit that a judge had ordered sealed.

The affidavit, which was released to the newspaper while the family was in Iraq for the burial, showed Fatima Alawadi was upset about a pending arranged marriage to a cousin. She told police she was in her bedroom when she heard her mother squeal and glass break.

The affidavit also said Ms Alawadi wanted to get a divorce and move to Texas.


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