As 32-year-old Faten Saad was being buried at Zaidan cemetery in eastern Fallujah, her husband Lt. Ali Nemeh sat a few metres away, holding his 7-year-old daughter Hala and weeping.
Faten died on Thursday, December 13th, at the hands of suspected al-Qaeda gunmen. Her husband works as a police officer in the criminal investigation department of the Fallujah police force.
"I left home to go to work on that morning, leaving Faten to pack up to go see her parents so she could care for her sick mother, but I received the news of her death as soon as I arrived at the police centre," Nemeh said.
"They told me that al-Qaeda had attacked my home, wounding my wife, and that I had to go to the hospital, but on my arrival I found she had died of four gunshots to the head and chest," he added.
"I was the target, but when they could not get me they killed her," he said.
As tears filled his eyes, Nemeh added, "Faten was a pious woman; she fasted and prayed, and was pregnant. The scoundrels killed her and left her body on the doorstep, then disappeared from the scene after having searched the house looking for me."
A neighbour to Lt. Nemeh, 56-year-old Hajj Makki al-Hassany, told Mawtani, "We feel regret and disappointment because we could not protect Faten against the killers, as they used weapons with silencers in committing their crime."
"If we had known, the entire neighbourhood would have risen against them," he said. "The crimes of al-Qaeda against the Iraqi people no longer require explanation or justification, as every Iraqi home and street has suffered from terrorism."
Faten's murder is yet another to be added to the list of assassinations al-Qaeda members have carried out against the families of security personnel and anti-al-Qaeda Sahwa members, security officials told Mawtani.
"Al-Qaeda began using the families of security officers and Sahwa members as a way to pressure them: either they collaborate with them or leave their jobs, or they and their families would be killed," said Col. Hikmat Mahmoud al-Masari, director of media and relations at the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
"We have 219 security men and Sahwa members who have lost their families or family members in attacks launched by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups this year," he told Mawtani.
The dead "include 143 wives, while the rest were children, or their fathers and mothers, who were usually elderly", he said.
According to al-Masari, police have so far captured 84 al-Qaeda gunmen involved in these killings, adding that these men were tried in court and some of them received death sentences by hanging.
"We must not be surprised that the terrorists resorted to vengeful crimes of killing against their rivals, who are usually security men, because they in the past killed members of their own families," he said. "They are ruthless with their own folks, so how else would they be with strangers?"
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Sahwa forces, Sheikh Dhari al-Ersan, told Mawtani, "Eighty-seven women married to Sahwa men were killed this year at the hands of terrorists, including 31 pregnant women."
"Shortly after the mothers' deaths, doctors were able to retrieve through surgeries five babies who were still alive, while the other women died with their babies inside them", he added.
"This alone represents the barbarity of these terrorists and the extent of the savagery of al-Qaeda members, and confirms the need to get rid of them as soon as possible," al-Masari said.
Forty-two-year-old Sahwa member Jassem Mawloud, who also lost his wife, said, "A fighter's loss of his wife is like losing his weapon in the battlefield."
"Al-Qaeda knows that Sahwa fighters have supporters inside their households and [within] their families," he said. "Therefore they decided to take their revenge on them, too."
He told Mawtani he was forced to change his place of residence after gunmen killed his wife in the backyard garden. After firing four bullets at her head, the killers left a message near the body that said,
"The next turn is all your relatives."
According to Dr. Kamal al-Gharbawi, a psychiatrist in Baghdad, "The terrorists' lack of a sense of belonging to a normal family made them unable to appreciate what it means to attack the home of a policeman, soldier or Sahwa member, [and] to kill their wives and children."
"They have become people with hearts devoid of love or tenderness, and sometimes it is very hard or impossible to treat them," he said.
Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor al-Sammarae, head of the Sunni Endowment office in Iraq, told Mawtani, "The terrorists' readiness to conduct revenge killings against the families of security personnel and Sahwa members is the biggest proof they do not represent Islam."
"The repeat of these crimes shows the extent of the terrorists' despair [that they cannot impose] their will, and the failure of their continuous threats against security men and whoever opposes them," he added.
"We see terrorists today killing everything in front of them that is related to security men or Sahwa members," he said. "This is why they are not part of us nor are we part of them."
"It is the duty of security forces to fight them until victory, and it is also the duty of all ordinary Iraqis to assist in that," he said.