Iraq: Hostage pleading and the judge’s assassination before the elections

US officials said Tuesday they were studying a purported hostage tape broadcast on Arab television to determine if the man seen on the recording was an American contract worker missing in Iraq since November.

The State Department withheld comment on the tape broadcast by &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Al-Jazeera television showing a man identified as Roy Hallums pleading for help from Arab leaders to secure his release. "We've been able now to obtain a copy of the videotape," department spokeman Richard Boucher said. "We're analyzing it. It purportedly shows Mr Hallums as a hostage, but I don't have any final judgments on it at this point", writes the Turkish Press.

"I have been arrested by a resistance group in Iraq," 56-year-old Hallums, dressed in civilian clothes, his beard flecked with white and his voice shaking, says on the tape.

"I'm asking for help because my life is in danger because it's been proved that I work for &to=http:// ' target=_blank>American forces." As he speaks, the barrel of a rifle is held inches from his head. Unlike most other hostage tapes in Iraq, no group's banner or flag appears in the picture and no demands are made, informs Reuters.

According to the Indian Express, Iraqi militants have killed the judge Qais Hashim Shameri along with his son in an ambush as they left home during morning rush hour, police sources said. The attack again showed the ability of insurgents to strike at the heart of Iraq’s US-backed interim government. Ansar al-Sunna, a militant Sunni group which has carried out a series of deadly strikes in recent weeks, claimed responsibility for the assassination.

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