Part of the backdrop to Operation Matador (8-14 May 05) was the kidnapping of the provincial governor by insurgents on 10 May. This was also part of the wave of violence sweeping over all of western Anbar province at the time. The kidnappers (probably AQI) explicitly said they took the action to force US forces out of the Al-Qaim area. Like so many others, this story has a tragic ending, with Governor Nawaf Farhan eventually being killed in a firefight several weeks later.
It took me a while to connect the dots here, but recently was able to tie several things together. Farhan’s kidnapping and death makes much more sense to me now, and helps fill out the overall narrative. The main piece that fell into place was my discovery that he had been the Mayor of Al-Qaim, the same one LtCol Mundy and other 3/2 Marines met with on 15 March (the ides of March, BTW) at the beginning of the tour.
3/2’s CO meets with Al Qa’im mayor, marines.mil, 15mar05
His full name was Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi, signifying he was part of the Albu Mahal tribe (for some reason, the Marine.mil article above calls him Raja Nuwaf Fahran Al-Sharhi). According to an Al-Jazeera news item:
[Farhan] Al-Mahalawi only recently became governor after tribal leaders forced out his predecessor Faisal Raikan al-Gut al-Nimrawi, who narrowly escaped a roadside bombing in February. Al-Mahalawi, who is originally from al-Qaim, served as mayor of the town under Saddam Hussein.
Weeks later, the Governor met an untimely end, ironically just as US troops had stumbled upon the location where his captors were holding him. Here’s an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:
On 29 May, a US Army unit on patrol near Rawah came under RPG and automatic rifle fire from insurgents in a farmhouse. They returned fire, killing 4 of the fighters and wounding 3 others. Farhan’s body was then found inside the house. The body was found blindfolded and chained to a gas cylinder, and had suffered from a blow to the head. Mahalawi hadn’t been shot, but had instead seemingly been killed by a falling piece of rubble during the firefight. Of the four fighters killed by the US troops during the firefight, 2 were from Syria, 1 from Algeria, and 1 from Jordan. Of the three injured and captured, 2 were Saudis, and 1 was a Moroccan.
And here are several more press articles about this whole episode:
Governor of Iraqi province seized, Al-Jazeera, 11may05
Abducted Iraq governor found dead, BBC, 31may05
Governor of Anbar Province Killed, Fox News, 31may05
Body of kidnapped Iraq governor is found, NY Times, 1jun05
Anbar leader found dead after assault, Chicago Tribune, 1jun05
Kidnapped Iraqi governor is found dead after clash, Boston Globe, 1jun05