A June 1 article incorrectly said that U.S. troops had fired a tank round into a house in which the governor of Iraq's Anbar province was found dead after a battle on Sunday. The soldiers fired an anti-tank round, according to a U.S. military spokesman. (Published 6/2/2005)
The governor of the western province of Anbar apparently died when U.S. troops were drawn into a tank assault against a house where Saudis and other foreign Arab fighters were holding him captive, U.S. military and Iraqi government spokesmen said Tuesday.
Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan Mahalawi, 51, found blindfolded and handcuffed to a gas canister with his head crushed, died as he lived, a family member said -- caught between the foreign guerrillas he was trying to fight and the American forces he was trying to help.
"I advised him a lot to leave this job, but he told me, 'The Anbar people expect good from me, and I have a way to convince the Americans to stop the attacks and raids on the homes,' " said his brother, Dahham Nawaf Farhan Mahalawi.
" 'We will not tolerate the terrorists, and if the Americans are unable to get rid of them, we will do what the Americans were not able to,' " the brother quoted the slain governor as saying.
Two thousand mourners turned out for Mahalawi's funeral procession Tuesday from Ramadi, the provincial capital.
Anbar, a province of tens of thousands of square miles, serves as a refuge and way station for foreign fighters who cross from Syria to join Iraq's insurgency, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.
It was unclear Tuesday exactly how Mahalawi died in Sunday's clash near the village of Rawah, about 175 miles northwest of Baghdad. Two Saudis, an Algerian and a Jordanian in the house were killed, a U.S. military spokesman said in Baghdad. U.S. soldiers detained two other Saudis and a Moroccan who were wounded in the fight, said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan.
Mahalawi appears to have died of blunt-force trauma to the head, just before or during the clash, Boylan said. He said the governor's body had no bullet wounds.
A spokesman for the Iraqi government, Laith Kubba, said authorities believe the governor was hit by rubble from the assault.
Mahalawi's brother, who said he had seen the body, said he believed the governor was killed by foreign Arabs just before they died in the battle.
The governor's death highlighted the vulnerability of Iraqi officials who take part in the new government and cooperate with U.S. forces despite insurgent threats. Hundreds of local or national officials and security force members have died in insurgent attacks, which occur daily.
The threat is particularly great in Anbar's countryside, from which many Iraqi officials and all but a few dozen Iraqi troops have fled.
Mahalawi, son of a top sheik of Anbar's leading Albu Mahal tribe, had been elected to his post by a local council on May 3. The foreign Arabs who kidnapped him on May 10 said they would release him only when U.S. Marines halted an offensive in Anbar -- the first of two in May.
Boylan said Sunday's clash began when a U.S. Army force on an unrelated mission near Rawah came under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms.
Soldiers fired back, sending bullets and at least one tank round into the house, Boylan said. Troops also saw explosions inside the house during the battle, he said.
Afterward, Americans found the dead and injured foreign Arabs and Mahalawi's body, Boylan said. A U.S. military statement said the troops also found bombmaking material.
"It was not a rescue attempt," Boylan said of the clash. "We had no way to know he was in that house."
U.S. forces made no mention of the governor's death until Tuesday, when Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, announced it at a news conference.
After the killing, the governor's family had asked U.S. military officials not to intervene if tribe members attacked hideouts of Arab fighters they believed were somehow involved, said one relative, Omar Farhan.
Under the tribe's custom, deaths must be avenged before the victims can be buried, local officials said. An Iraqi army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bodies of four suspected foreign Arabs were found Tuesday afternoon near a burned car in Rawah.
Late Tuesday, U.S. Marines took up positions along the governor's funeral route and around homes of his family, apparently guarding the mourners, witnesses said. Marine spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment on that point.
A statement that was circulated Tuesday in Anbar in the name of the militant group al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, threatened retaliation against "young and old" of the tribe as "collaborators with the occupier."
Elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military confirmed the deaths of four American service members and one Iraqi pilot in the first crash involving Iraq's newly reconstituted air force. The single-engine plane was in flames and on the ground when a witness spotted it about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad, but there was no word of how Monday's crash occurred, said Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, a military spokesman.
The U.S. military also announced Tuesday that a Marine was killed Monday by small-arms fire in Ramadi.
An Italian helicopter crashed Tuesday in the south, near Nasiriyah, killing four soldiers. The crash appeared to have been an accident, Italy's ANSA news service quoted an Italian military spokesman as saying. Italy has about 3,000 troops in Iraq.
In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen shot and killed Jerges Mohammed Sultan, a correspondent for Iraq's al-Iraqiya state TV. North of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber killed two Iraqi soldiers at an army checkpoint near Buhriz, news agencies quoted police as saying.
Bombings, ambushes and other attacks have killed more than 700 people in accelerated insurgent attacks since Iraq's Shiite-led government took office April 28.
In Washington, President Bush called Iraq's new leaders "plenty capable" of defeating the insurgency.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told CNN that Iraq expected to put ousted leader Saddam Hussein on trial in the next two months on charges of crimes against humanity.
Humam Hamoudi, a leading Shiite religious lawmaker in the new National Assembly, said Hussein's execution would help demoralize and defeat the insurgency, as would the death of Zarqawi, who was reportedly wounded in a recent firefight. "These will be two gifts to the victimized," Hamoudi said in an interview.
Special correspondent Omar Fekeiki in Baghdad contributed to this report.