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Iraqi TikTok star Umm Fahad shot dead in Baghdad

By Aqeel Najim, Nechirvan Mando and Duarte Mendonca, CNN

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) — Iraqi social media star Ghufran Sawadi, better known as Umm Fahad, was shot dead outside her home in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, on Friday night, a Baghdad police source told CNN.

The attack took place in the Zayouna area east of Baghdad, and was captured on video by a surveillance camera and shared on social media. The video shows a gunman riding a motorcycle shooting and killing Sawadi on the spot. A Baghdad police source confirmed the authenticity of the video to CNN.

The country’s Interior Minister announced on Friday that it was “forming a specialized work team to find out the circumstances of the killing of a woman known on social media by unknown assailants.”

Sawadi was popular on TikTok, where she shared videos of herself dancing to pop music in form-fitting clothes. In the past, these videos were deemed inappropriate by Iraq’s judiciary. Sawadi was sentenced to six months in prison for “the crime of producing and publishing several films and videos containing obscene and indecent language, violating public decency and morals,” an Iraqi judiciary statement said.

Other Iraqi social media personalities have previously been targeted in deadly attacks.

Most recently, another popular Iraqi TikTok personality, Noor Alsaffar, known as Noor BM, was shot dead in Baghdad in September 2023, an Iraqi security source told CNN at the time.

Alsaffar, who had over 370,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok, posted short videos about fashion, hair, and makeup, also often dancing to music.

Following news of the shooting, many posted comments lamenting Alsaffar’s death, though others applauded it, celebrating the man who fired the shot.

Alsaffar’s killing came as Iraq cracked down on LGBTQ expression and moved to criminalize it in law.

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CNN’s Aqeel Najim reported from Baghdad, Nechirvan Mando from Erbil and Duarte Mendonca from London.

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