- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

BAGHDAD — An American hostage pleaded for his life with a rifle pointed at his head in a video released yesterday, and nine Iraqis, including a senior judge, were killed in a series of attacks that highlighted the security risks ahead of this weekend’s elections.

On a day that the U.S. military said six American soldiers had died, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also said the time was not right to talk of a U.S. troop withdrawal. Iraq first must build up its security forces to confront the insurgents, Mr. Allawi said.

Meanwhile, President Bush said yesterday he will ask for more than $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, shattering initial cost estimates and pushing the total for both conflicts to nearly $300 billion so far.

The money will be used in part to repair and replace equipment for U.S. troops and to equip three new Army brigades.

Nearly the entire package — $75 billion — will fund military operations, mostly for a force of 150,000 American soldiers, Marines and other troops now in Iraq.

The Army plans to keep at least 120,000 troops in Iraq for the next two years to train and fight alongside Iraqi forces against insurgents, a sign that massive funding requests will be needed in future years.

In the newly released video, hostage Roy Hallums spoke slowly, rubbing his hands as he sat with the barrel of the rifle inches from his head.

He said he had been arrested 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.

Mr. Hallums, 56, was seized Nov. 1 along with Filipino Robert Tarongoy during an armed assault on 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.

“I am please asking for help because my life is in danger because it’s been proved I worked for American forces,” Mr. Hallums said. “I’m not asking for any help from President Bush because I know of his selfishness and unconcern for those who’ve been pushed into this hellhole.”

Mr. Hallums’ wife, Susan Hallums, told reporters outside her Corona, Calif., home:

“I’m sure it was a speech he was supposed to say, but he’s an American hero and I think we should try to help him out. He needs our help.” She is separated from her husband, who is the father of their two daughters.

A statement that surfaced yesterday in the name of the Islamic Army in Iraq called for more kidnappings and attacks before Sunday’s elections.

At least 10 Americans have been taken hostage, but only one has been freed or escaped.

Fighting erupted yesterday 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 reported 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 police officers were killed and nine were wounded in the clashes.

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