When police came hunting for a teenage girl they believed had been recruited by al-Qaeda to be a suicide bomber in a town north of Baghdad, they found she was already dead: Slain by her father, who told police he strangled his daughter out of shame and then cut her throat.
The killing of Shahlaa Najim al-Anbaky, reported by police Friday, appeared to be from an unusual melding of motives - part to defend the family honor, part to prevent her from joining the militants. But how much of each weighed in her father's mind remains unclear, with police still investigating the details.
Al-Qaeda has been recruiting women for suicide attacks because they can pass police checkpoints more easily than men by concealing explosives under an abaya, a loose, black cloak that conservative Muslim women wear. Suicide bombers have been al-Qaeda's most lethal weapon in Iraq, killing hundreds of civilians and members of Iraq's security forces.
Daughter wanted "to blow herself up"
Iraqi security forces raided the man's house in Mandili, 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Baghdad, to search for Shahlaa after receiving information that she had ties to the militant group.
They arrested her father, Najim Abd al-Anbaky, on Thursday when he confessed he had killed his daughter and buried her body near his house, said Major Ghalib al-Jubouri, a police spokesman in Diyala province.
"He confessed he killed her when he learned she worked for al-Qaeda and she wanted to blow herself up," Jubouri said.
The father, described by authorities as a small-time trader of chickens and sheep, led police to her grave in the backyard.
Diyala, a mainly Sunni Arab province with significant Shiite and Kurdish populations, has seen some of the worst violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Another side of the story
A senior Iraqi army official involved in the case gave a slightly different account, saying authorities looking for the daughter called the father in for questioning, not knowing Shahlaa was dead. It was then the father confessed to killing her, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. The different accounts could not immediately be explained.
Authorities dug up her body in hopes of learning more about how the killing happened. But the true reason behind the crime will likely remain a mystery.
The father was still in custody under investigation, though no charges had been filed so far, and other family members could not be reached for comment.
Another police official, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, said authorities were investigating the possibility that the young woman had a boyfriend in al-Qaeda. Police records indicated that Najim al-Anbaky killed one of his sisters in 1984 in what was described as an honor killing, the official said.
A range of motives may have played a part in the killing - a strong hatred of al-Qaeda in a part of the country where the group once terrorized residents, fear that the family would be punished if she carried out a bombing, anger or shame that she might be romantically involved.
So-called "honor killings" do take place in Iraq's traditional, tribal society - though their extent is little measured, overshadowed by the political violence that has bloodied the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In such cases, a man is said to be trying to reclaim the family honor by killing a sister, daughter or mother if there's a suspicion she has had improper relations with men outside the family. Courts and authorities sometimes turn a blind eye to such slayings.
Female suicide bombers
While they are not as common as male suicide bombers, women suicide bombers can be just as deadly.
A female suicide bomber was behind one of the deadliest attacks this year in Iraq, after she blew herself up among Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad in February, killing 54 people.
In April of last year, more than 60 people died when two female suicide bombers hiding explosives in their purses struck worshippers streaming into Baghdad's most important Shiite shrine for Friday prayers.
Five family members killed
In a separate incident, suspected al-Qaeda militants bombed the home of a Shiite family in a town south of Baghdad on Friday, killing five people.
Three bombs were planted overnight at the home of Mohammed al-Karrafi, a follower of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in Haswa, a religiously mixed town about 50 km (30 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, police said.
"After midnight, two bombs completely destroyed the house of the Sadrist, Mohammed al-Karrafi, killing five people and wounding four others," said Major General Fadhil Razaq, the chief of police in Babil province. "All the casualties are from the same family."
The blasts killed Karrafi, his wife, his two sons and a nephew. Two of Karrafi's brothers and their wives were wounded in the explosions.
Razaq said a third bomb was detonated when security forces reached the scene but no one was hurt.
"We accuse al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is trying to take Iraq back to sectarian conflict by targeting Shiite figures," Razaq add.
Overall violence has fallen in the last two years as the sectarian bloodshed that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion fades, but bombings and attacks still occur daily.