Published January 13, 2015
With just days left until Iraq's historical elections, nine Iraqis — including a senior judge — were killed in a series of attacks Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military said that five American soldiers died Monday in a vehicle accident while another died of wounds from a bomb blast. Plus, a videotape surfaced that apparently shows an American hostage pleading for his life.
With all that is going on, Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) said the time was not right to talk of a U.S. troop withdrawal and he said Iraq must first build up its security forces to confront the insurgents.
"Others spoke about the immediate withdrawal or setting a timetable for the withdrawal of multinational forces," Allawi told reporters on Tuesday. "I will not deal with the security matter under political pretexts and exaggerations that do not serve Iraq and its people."
"I will not set final dates" for the withdrawal of international forces "because setting final dates will be futile and dangerous," Allawi added.
'A Kind and Loving Father'
And there are news reports that a newly released videotape shows a missing American, Roy Hallums (search), pleading at gunpoint for Arab rulers to intercede to spare his life. Hallums was abducted Nov. 1 along with two foreigners and three Iraqis after a gunbattle in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood.
FOX News could not confirm the authenticity of the videotape, but the fact that it surfaced in Baghdad instead of being posted on the Internet seemed to lend it authenticity.
"Let him go. He's a kind and loving father and he doesn't deserve this," the contractor's wife, Susan, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from her home in California. The family has set up a Web site dedicated to Hallums.
The U.S. Embassy did say, however, that officials there are in touch with the Hallums family.
The Iraqi hostages and a Nepalese worker, Inus Dewari, have been freed.
They all worked for the Riyadh-based Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Company (search), which serves food to the Iraqi army.
Coming Election Influencing Violence
Fighting erupted Tuesday in Baghdad's eastern Rashad neighborhood as police fired on insurgents who were handing out leaflets warning people not to vote.
About the same time in the same neighborhood, insurgents fired on police who were checking on a possible car bomb.
Another bomb blew off the gate of a secondary school in the neighborhood and gunmen opened fire on Iraqi and U.S. forces responding to the blast.
In all, three policemen were killed and nine were wounded in the clashes, according to an official at Kindi Hospital. Two insurgents died and a shopkeeper also was killed in the crossfire. Earlier, officials reported 11 policemen were killed and offered no explanation for the revised toll.
Elsewhere, gunmen killed two Iraqi army soldiers on patrol west of Baghdad, witnesses said.
The slain judge was identified as Qais Hashim Shameri, secretary general of the judges council in the Justice Ministry. Assailants sprayed his car with bullets, also killing his driver and wounding a bodyguard.
The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, one of Iraq's most active insurgent groups, claimed responsibility. In a Web posting, it called him "one of the heads of infidelity and apostasy of the new Iraqi government."
Assailants also shot and killed a man who worked for a district council in western Baghdad as he was on his way to work, police said.
In a third ambush, gunmen firing from a speeding car wounded three staffers from the Communications Ministry heading to work, police Lt. Iyman Abdul-Hamid said.
Attackers also shot and killed the son of an Iraqi translator working with U.S. troops, police said.
A police colonel was gunned down Monday, along with his 5-year-old daughter, as he was driving in southern Baghdad, officials said. Col. Nadir Hassan was in charge of police protecting electric power facilities in two provinces flanking the capital.
Northeast of Baghdad, a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled into a canal during a combat patrol, killing five American soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry Division and wounding two others, the military said Tuesday. The accident, which was under investigation, occurred near the town of Khan Bani Saad during fierce sandstorms Monday night.
Another U.S. soldier died of wounds from a roadside bomb that blasted an American patrol in Baghdad, the military added.
When Will U.S. Go?
There has been speculation that the new Iraqi government to be chosen after the weekend elections might ask the Americans to begin negotiations for their departure — as demanded by Sunni Arab insurgents as well as members of the Sunni clergy. However, none of the major political figures contesting the election has publicly called for such a step.
Bush discussed the elections Tuesday with Allawi, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, the latest in a series of consultations about the vote.
Iraqis are to choose a 275-member National Assembly and legislatures in each of the 18 provinces. Voters in the Kurdish-ruled area of the north also will elect a regional parliament.
Many Sunni Arabs are expected to boycott the elections, either in opposition to the process or for fear of reprisals.
On Tuesday, militants handed out flyers in Baghdad promising that rebels would attack voters and shower polling stations with bombs, mortar fire and rockets. The leaflets, which didn't bear the name of any militant group, warned that "those who dare to stand in the lines of death to participate in the elections will be responsible for the consequences that will be heavy."
"He will not be able to imagine what will happen to him and his family for taking part in this crusaders' conspiracy to occupy the land of Islam," the flyers said.
In other violence, gunmen in northern Iraq kidnapped a senior official in the Iraqi Communist Party, Mohammed Nouri Aqrawi, in the city of Mosul, a party official said.
Attackers blasted a school to be used as a polling station with machine gun fire in the central city of Diwaniyah, but no one was hurt, a Polish military spokesman said.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the abuse of detainees by Iraq's fledgling, U.S.-trained security forces.
With few exceptions, Iraqi authorities have not acted to stop the mistreatment, the report said. International police advisers, largely funded by Washington, "have turned a blind eye to these rampant abuses," it said.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 90 detainees in Iraq, of whom 72 claimed to have been tortured or abused.
The Iraqi government acknowledged abuses and said it had launched its own inquiry.
"We are sure that there are violations in these prisons, but not so serious. The investigation is still under way," said Husham al-Suhail, an official in Iraq's Human Rights Ministry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.