Leading government officials are risking assassination every time they go outside The operation was fraught with danger. The walkie-talkies crackled. The armed men stood guard. The high-profile Iraqi VIP stepped out of the vehicle and into her favourite shoe store. Her guards told her it was not safe to linger. 'I had only five minutes to buy two pairs of shoes,' said Raja Habib al-Khuzai, the former Governing Council member now serving on the commission to create an Iraqi constitution. 'But I really, really wanted to go shopping. I had to.' A spate of assassinations have made a simple trip to work or the shops an act of bravery for leading Iraqi officials. The mortal danger they face, day in day out, was underlined by the killings of a top diplomat and a leading civil servant at the weekend. Dr Khuzai has no doubt that she too is marked for death. 'We are targets,' she said, adding she had heard that the insurgents had put US$2.5 million bounties on the heads of high-level government officials. Each day before getting into her car and leaving for work, she puts a copy of the Koran in her pocket. 'I pray and hope that once more God protects me,' she said. The 57-year-old former gynecologist, who spent years fighting for women's rights during the Saddam Hussein era, also takes more earthly precautions. She recently upped her brigade of bodyguards from 12 to 30. They hail from her tribe, meaning they are less likely to give information to terrorists. She varies her bullet-proof cars and travelling strategies to keep potential assassins spying on her off-balance. She asked that specific details about her travelling patterns not be published. Nowadays in Baghdad just getting an ice cream with her 21-year-old daughter Dalia is a complicated mission that requires multiple layers of security and co-ordination with coalition forces. Most Iraqi ministers and members of Iraq's now-dissolved governing council have been placed in homes in the Qadasia neighbourhood, an upmarket riverside neighbourhood surrounded by armed guards and four-metre concrete walls. Visitors must pass a series of security checkpoints sometimes manned by US military personnel. Cars are searched for explosives and men and women are patted down for weapons. Dr Khuzai said insurgents had also targeted her family. In March, assailants opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on her home in Diwaniyah while she was in Baghdad. Dr Khuzai's son, Abdullah, 15, and her surgeon husband, Falah Shawkat al-Na'ab, survived by fighting back with their Kalashnikov assault rifles. Her family then went into hiding, sheltered by tribal relatives in the countryside. Despite the security woes, many Iraqi officials go about their duties without fear. Newly appointed transport minister Louay Hatem Sultan al-Erris said he regularly crisscrossed the country to check ongoing projects. Justice Minister Malik al-Hassan said he continued to meet judges to assess the state of Iraq's legal system. Hamid al-Kifaey, head of public relations for President Ghazi al-Yawar, vowed that the nascent government, which is set to take formal control of Iraq on June 30, would not be deterred or distracted by the attacks. 'Nobody is going to be hindered by these cowardly acts,' he said. 'The government is functioning as normal. We are not afraid.' But Mr Kifaey conceded that the targeting of Iraqi leaders had hampered their ability to interact with their constituents. Dr Khuzai said she felt strange keeping away from ordinary folk. 'Six months ago I used to meet with students and young people,' she said. 'Now, unfortunately, I have to restrict my movements.'