BAGHDAD, Iraq – A leading figure in Iraq's Governing Council died Thursday of wounds suffered in an ambush last week, marking the first time Iraq's violence has claimed the life of a member of the U.S.-appointed administration.
Aquila al-Hashimi (search)'s death came as a bomb damaged a hotel housing the offices of NBC News, raising fears of attacks against international media. A Somali guard was killed and an NBC sound engineer was slightly wounded in the early morning explosion at the small al-Aike Hotel in the city's fashionable Karrada district.
In the north, eight American soldiers were wounded -- three of them seriously -- when their convoy was ambushed with roadside bombs and small arms fire in Mosul (search), Iraq's third-largest city.
The tenuous security situation prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) to order a further reduction in U.N. international staff in Iraq after two bombings at U.N. headquarters, including one on Aug. 19 that killed 22 people.
And the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, warned he would use whatever force necessary to defeat those who attack American soldiers.
But use of force has led to "friendly fire" deaths in Iraq.
On Thursday, the military said U.S. soldiers shot and killed two Iraqi policemen in Fallujah on Aug. 9.
Col. Bill Darley, a spokesman with coalition joint task force, told The Associated Press that an Army investigation found that the soldiers acted in accordance with the rules of engagement. He identified the soldiers as members of the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, part of the 1st Armored Division's 3rd Brigade.
Darley did not give further details.
On Sept. 12, U.S. soldiers killed eight Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian hospital guard near Fallujah. The police were chasing a car known to have been involved in highway banditry.
Al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council and the leading candidate to become Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, died in a U.S. military hospital five days after being ambushed by six men in a pickup truck near her Baghdad home. She was to have attended the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.
It was the first attack on a member of the ruling council since it was appointed in July by the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Al-Hashimi, who will be buried Friday, came from a prominent Shiite Muslim family and served in the Foreign Ministry during Saddam Hussein's regime.
Al-Hashimi, 50 and unmarried, was the only official of the ousted regime appointed to the new leadership. The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed the attack on Saddam loyalists; no arrests have been made.
The council declared three days of mourning beginning Thursday and said al-Hashimi "fell as a martyr on the path of freedom and democracy to build this great nation. She died at the hands of a clique of infidels and cunning people who only know darkness."
Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef said assassinations "will never improve the situation in Iraq or achieve any results."
The explosion at the al-Aike Hotel raised fears that insurgents may also begin targeting international media, although U.S. officials said it was unclear whether NBC was the focus. NBC correspondent Jim Avila said there were no signs on the three-story building indicating NBC had quarters there. A dozen NBC staffers were in the building when the explosion took place.
The bomb exploded about 7 a.m. next to the hotel in a small hut housing the generator, killing the Somali night watchman as he slept and wounding Canadian sound engineer David Moodie.
"I was awake," said Moodie, who received a deep cut from flying glass. "A chest of drawers in the room fell on me. I sleep in the room immediately above the generator, so I guess I was lucky."
None of NBC's 11 employees in Baghdad was leaving, said David Verdi, executive director of NBC News. The network was searching for a new headquarters Thursday, and will likely land at either the Sheraton or Palestine hotel, he said.
The al-Aike Hotel was a concrete structure, providing protection against gunshots, but close to the street, Verdi said. The Sheraton is more protected but has a lot of glass, he said.
"There are no safe places because everything has something that makes it vulnerable," he said.
An ABC News spokesman, Jeffrey Schneider, said the NBC attack "gives us all grave concern." Nervous about security, ABC wouldn't say where its staff was located in Baghdad or even how many were there.
Coalition forces toppled the regime in April but have been facing a guerrilla-style insurgency, especially in areas dominated by the minority Sunni Muslim community. President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1; since then, 85 Americans and 12 Britons have been killed in hostile encounters.
Concern over security was behind Annan's decision to pare down U.N. staff even as major countries urge a greater role for the world body in Iraq's reconstruction.
At the time of the Aug. 19 bombing there were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq. That figure was reduced to 42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north, and U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said those numbers "can be expected to shrink further in the next few days."
Sanchez, the U.S. commander, said "terrorist elements" were "targeting the international community, targeting the Iraqi people and targeting coalition forces."
Bush is struggling to win international support for a U.N. resolution designed to bring fresh peacekeeping troops and financial support.
Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed some success Thursday in forging a consensus at the United Nations on nation-building in Iraq. "We are seeing some convergence of views," he said after a five-power meeting.
In the days head, Powell said, the Bush administration "will be looking at language" to alter the proposed U.S. resolution, which has been stalemated by objections that the United States was not willing to yield sufficient authority to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is considering a call-up of more reserves and National Guard units. There are 130,000 American troops in Iraq, supported by several thousand peacekeepers from Britain, Poland and other supporting countries.
In an attempt to ease the burden, the U.S. Central Command announced a plan to give servicemen and women 15 days annual leave if they have a 12-month tour of duty in Iraq. Eligible soldiers will be flown at government expense to Europe or the United States, Central Command said.