U.S. hostage pleads for life in Iraq video
An American kidnapped in November pleaded for his life in a video aired Tuesday, and at least a dozen Iraqis died in Baghdad as political violence continued to plague the country five days before Sunday's crucial elections for a new National Assembly.
On a day the U.S. military announced that six American soldiers died, Iraqi police engaged in fierce shootouts with insurgents, including gunmen who were handing out leaflets warning Iraqis not to vote or risk seeing their families' blood "wash the streets of Baghdad."
In the hostage video, a bearded Roy Hallums, 56, speaking with a rifle pointed at his head, said he had been taken by a "resistance group" because "I have worked with American forces." He appealed to Arab leaders, including Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, to save his life.
Hallums was seized by gunmen Nov. 1 along with Robert Tarongoy of the Philippines at their compound in Baghdad's Mansour district. The two worked for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army. The Filipino was not shown in the video and it was not known when the video was made.
"I am please asking for help because my life is in danger because it's been proved I worked for American forces," Hallums said.
In Westminster, Calif., his daughter, Carrie Cooper, 29, said she last saw him at a family reunion last June.
"My heart's broken to see my dad with a gun to his head. ... He's fearless and he wanted to help the people there and rebuild Iraq," she told KNBC-TV.
Hallums' former wife, Susan Hallums, urged President Bush to help the captive and urged the kidnappers to let him go.
"Please release him. He's never hurt anybody in his life. He's only done good things. He's a wonderful father and grandfather, and he's kind and I know that you can see that he's kind," she said at her home in Corona, Calif.
The U.S. military announced that a Bradley armored vehicle rolled into a canal northeast of Baghdad during a combat patrol Monday night, killing five American soldiers and injuring two from the Army's 1st Infantry Division. The accident, which was under investigation, occurred near the town of Khan Bani Saad during a sandstorm, it said.
A sixth U.S. soldier died Monday of wounds from a roadside bomb that blasted an American patrol in Baghdad, the military said.
At least 1,378 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
There has been speculation that the new Iraqi government might ask the Americans to set a timetable for foreign troops to leave. But Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday it was too soon to do that, saying Iraq must first build up its security forces to confront the insurgents.
U.S. commanders are devising a plan for as many as 10,000 soldiers and Marines to accompany Iraqi units as advisers and trainers, defense officials in Washington said. That would be a substantial increase from the few thousand now doing such work.
Tuesday was the last day for Iraqis living outside the country to register for the weekend vote, and international organizers said less than 25 percent of those eligible had done so. The biggest turnout was among Iraqis living in Iran — more than 53,000.
Iraqi authorities blamed the low turnout on several factors, including the long distances that many had to travel in countries like the United States and Australia.
But Majeed al-Gaood, a member of National Front of the Iraqi Intellectuals, a Sunni Arab opposition group, said many chose not to register because of the country's continuing instability and the presence of U.S. troops.
"How can we expect Iraqis to take part in the elections while their country is under the control of foreign forces?" he said.
Meanwhile, an Internet posting in the name of one insurgent group, the Islamic Army of Iraq, ordered followers to "escalate their operations to the maximum" to stop "the infidel elections."
Its origin could not be authenticated, but Islamic militants have used the site to claim responsibility for attacks and to condemn Iraq's interim government and U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
Late Tuesday, people in Fallujah reported hearing bursts of heavy automatic weapons fire. The city was an insurgent stronghold until a U.S. offensive in November, but the assault did not clear out all the gunmen and others are believed to have slipped back with residents in recent weeks.
Several firefights erupted earlier in Baghdad's eastern Rashad neighborhood. In one, police fired at insurgents handing out leaflets warning people not to vote.
The leaflets, which did not bear the name of any insurgent group, said rebels would attack voters and polling stations with bombs, mortar fire and rockets.
"We promise to wash the streets of Baghdad with the blood of voters," the papers warned.
About the same time, in another part of the district, insurgents shot at police checking a report of a possible car bomb. A bomb also blew off the gate of a neighborhood school and gunmen shot at responding Iraqi and U.S. forces.
Altogether, three policemen were killed and nine wounded in those clashes, an official at Kindi Hospital said. Two insurgents died and a shopkeeper was killed in the crossfire.
Elsewhere, gunmen killed two Iraqi soldiers patrolling the western outskirts of the capital, witnesses said. Gunmen killed a man who worked for a district council in west Baghdad, while other attackers killed the son of an Iraqi translator working with U.S. troops, police said.
In another incident, a senior judge, Qais Hashim Shameri, and his driver died when assailants sprayed their car with gunfire. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, one of Iraq's most active insurgent groups, claimed responsibility in a Web posting, calling the judge "one of the heads of infidelity and apostasy of the new Iraqi government."