MOSUL, Iraq – Gunmen attacked a car in the northern city of Mosul (search) Friday, killing three people who appeared to be foreigners and their Iraqi driver. The bodies of the four victims, including one whose head was almost severed, were seen lying on the road alongside their burning car.
At least one body was set alight. Eyewitnesses said one of the slain men appeared aged in his 20s and another in his 40s and that they were dressed in jeans.
Police Capt. Zeid Waseem said police received reports that three of the dead were foreigners but their nationalities were not immediately known.
A day earlier, a person was killed in Mosul when seven mortar rounds struck near local government offices, police Capt. Mohammed Abbas said.
Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, was initially peaceful after the U.S.-led invasion but it has become a worrisome trouble spot since U.S. and Iraqi troops invaded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah (search), west of Baghdad, in November.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Hastings said security forces in western Mosul found the bodies of six unidentified Iraqi civilians who had been shot to death. Two more bodies were found in a town 20 miles to the east. Since Nov. 10, about 160 bodies, including many affiliated with the Iraqi National Guard and police, have been found in the Mosul area.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy confirmed the name of an American kidnapped six weeks ago in a deadly attack in the Iraqi capital, and his family pleaded for his release.
Roy Hallums, a worker for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army, was seized Nov. 1 along with two other foreigners after a gunbattle in the upscale Mansour neighborhood. An Iraqi guard and one attacker were killed.
Hallums' wife, Susan, of Corona, Calif., said in a telephone interview Friday that she has not heard from the kidnappers. She is separated from her husband, the father of two daughters.
"I want to plead for his life and send out prayers and hope that he will be released," Susan Hallums said. "There has been no proof of life since he was taken."
The embassy confirmed Hallums' name and abduction but would give no other details.
South of Baghdad, a fire an oil pipeline near the capital's Dora refinery sent thick black billowing smoke pouring into the sky Friday. Insurgents regularly attack the country's oil infrastructure.
Insurgents also fired rocket-propelled grenades at a compound in Baghdad's Green Zone used by Australian troops stationed in the Iraqi capital, a defense spokeswoman said Friday. There were no injuries.
Also Friday, an official said Saddam Hussein's defense minister, who surrendered to American forces last year, will appear alongside another notorious general — known as Chemical Ali — when investigative trials open next week.
Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad (search), who gave himself up in September 2003 at a coalition military base in the northern city of Mosul, will be among the first two to face the hearings, which interim Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) announced will commence next week.
An Iraqi government official said Thursday that Saddam's notorious former right-hand man, Ali Hassan al-Majid (search) — known as "Chemical Ali" for his use of chemical weapons — would head the list of 11 top regime members to appear at the initial investigative court hearings.
"Chemical Ali and Sultan will be the first to face the hearings," the official, who is familiar with the proceedings, told The Associated Press.
Allawi's government has made a new push to start the trials ahead of Jan. 30 elections, in which campaigning has started amid continued insurgent violence.
The former defense minister, Ahmad, was No. 27 on America's list of 55 most-wanted regime figures. He surrendered on Sept. 19, 2003, to Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who was then the commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
Ahmad is in U.S. military custody at an undisclosed location in Baghdad.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Ahmad, then a lieutenant general, served as deputy chief of staff and head the Iraqi delegation at cease-fire talks.
Ahmad was responsible for persuading Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf to allow Iraq to use military helicopters on official business. The allies came to regret that decision later when the Iraqis used helicopters to quell rebellious Shiites in Basra and Kurds in the north.
The Kurdish mediator instrumental in bringing Ahmad said at the time of the surrender that the deal was sealed after the Americans agreed to remove his name from the 55 most-wanted list, a move that would have seen him released without trial after his initial questioning ended.
It was not immediately clear if the alleged arrangements remained in place.
Saddam, 67, will not be among the group to appear in next week's court hearings, which will be open to some media representatives, officials have said.
The former Iraqi president met with a defense attorney Thursday for the first time since his capture a year ago. The unidentified attorney spent four hours with the former dictator at Saddam's undisclosed detention site.
The Iraqi interim government's push to get the trials for Saddam's former lieutenants under way before the Jan. 30 national elections has led to dissent even within the Iraqi Cabinet.
Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan told the Geneva daily newspaper Le Temps in an interview published Thursday that the trials should be held only "after the establishment of an Iraqi government with ballot-box legitimacy."