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U.S. hostage pleads for his life as a series of bombs explodes in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq—An American hostage in Iraq pleaded for his life and urged the U.S. government to withdraw its troops from the country in a video that aired Wednesday on the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera.

Adam Hobson, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, identified the man as Jeffrey Ake, 47, a contractor who was kidnapped Monday while he was working at a water treatment plant in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, the capital.

The soundless video showed Ake seated behind a wooden desk, visibly shaken, with three machine guns pointed at him by men masked by kaffiyeh head scarves. He displayed what appeared to be a family photograph and his passport.

According to the Al-Jazeera announcer, Ake asked the U.S. government to work to save his life, to negotiate with the Iraqi resistance and to pull out its military as soon as possible.

The tape surfaced on a day when a series of midmorning explosions shook Baghdad.

Insurgents attacked a U.S. Defense Department convoy on the road from the airport, killing five Iraqis and wounding four American contractors, said Sgt. Derek Meyer, a spokesman for the U.S. military.

The group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on the Web. The claim couldn't be independently verified.

An hour after the first attack, a car bomb that had been identified and sealed off by American troops exploded, followed soon after by another blast 50 yards away. No one was injured. Meyer said there was a fourth explosion but could provide no further details.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry reported an attack on a U.S. convoy in eastern Baghdad that set a fuel tanker ablaze and a car bomb near a gas station at the beginning of the road to Abu Ghraib that injured three civilians.

Arab news networks reported that the blast along the airport highway was near a mosque that U.S. soldiers had raided last fall, retrieving explosives and photographs of attacks on American troops.

The kidnapped American works for Alpine, a company that has a contract to rebuild Iraq's water-treatment plants.

Ake, of LaPorte, Ind., also runs a water-bottling company in his home state called Equipment Express, which has manufactured products for use in Iraq.

He's among at least 14 Americans who have been kidnapped in the year since insurgents' beheading of Nicholas Berg, of West Chester, Pa., stunned Westerners in Iraq into an awareness of their vulnerability, even as nonmilitary targets.

Criminal gangs and insurgents have taken more than 200 foreigners captive in Iraq in the past year, and more than 30 have been killed.

Also on Wednesday, 12 Iraqi police officers who had gathered to defuse an apparent decoy bomb near Kirkuk were killed by another bomb.


(A Knight Ridder correspondent who couldn't be named for security reasons contributed to this article.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.