Helicopter Crashes, Provincial Governor Found Dead in Iraq
Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani told CNN that authorities are expected to put deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on trial in the next two months for alleged crimes against the Iraqi people. Talabani said that as a lawyer he would have to wait the outcome of the trial process “but the Iraqi people from now are starting to ask for executing Saddam Hussein and for sentencing him for death.”
Also, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, purportedly sent a message via audio tape to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden saying he was in good health after getting slightly wounded by U.S. troops, and would “tighten the noose” on his enemies, according to the Associated Press.
The cause of the crash of the Italian AB-412 helicopter remained unknown, but spokesman Lt. Col. Fabio Mattiassi told the ANSA news agency it was likely an accident.
The helicopter went down about eight miles southeast of Nasiriyah, killing its two pilots and two passengers, all connected to the army, Mattiassi said.
A day earlier, an Iraqi single-engine plane crashed near Jalula, about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing the four Americans aboard and one Iraqi pilot, said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, reported the AP.
The aircraft was one of seven used by the Iraqi air force for surveillance and personnel transport.
The body of Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi, governor of the volatile Anbar province, was found Sunday in Rawah, about 175 miles northwest of Baghdad, government spokesman Laith Kuba said.
Al-Mahalawi was abducted May 10 near Qaim, a town near the Syrian border.
The body was found inside a house following a gun battle between U.S. forces and insurgents holed up there, Kuba said.
Sunday’s battle began after foreign fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at coalition forces from a house, said a military spokesman Maj. Wes Hayes, the AP reported. Coalition forces returned fire, killing four foreign fighters and wounding three others, and then found in the house the body of al-Mahalawi, which had been chained to a propane tank and suffered a blow to the head, Hayes said.
Al-Zarqawi cited the fighting in Qaim in his taped message aired on an Islamic Web site, calling it a victory for the insurgency.
“Al-Qaim was the battlefield where the youth of Mohammed have proved their valiance after 10 days of fighting,” the speaker on the tape attributed to al-Zarqawi said. “Our dear emir,” he said, addressing bin Laden, “if you want to know our news, we would like to assure you that we are continuing on the path of jihad, we are committed to our pledge. We will either win or die trying.”
The U.S. military said it killed 125 militants during its weeklong offensive against insurgents. Nine U.S. marines were killed and 40 wounded during the operation.
The Sunday Times of London reported that al-Zarqawi was wounded in the chest by shrapnel when a U.S. missile struck his convoy near Qaim three weeks ago.