BAGHDAD -- The intractability of the violence gripping Iraq was on graphic display yesterday with the release of a videotape of American hostage Roy Hallums begging for his life at gunpoint, the assassination of an Iraqi judge, and the killing of at least five members of Iraqi security forces.
In an admission of the security difficulties, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in a news conference that it was ''futile and dangerous" at this point to give a final date for US troop withdrawal from the country. He scoffed at Iraqi politicians who maintained it was possible to set such deadlines, charging that in advance of Sunday's national elections they were using the issue for political reasons.
''I will not set final dates" for the withdrawal of the forces, Allawi said. ''I will not deal with the security matter under political pretexts and exaggerations that do not serve Iraq and its people."
Also yesterday, the US military announced that six American soldiers had died. A Bradley armored vehicle rolled into a canal northeast of Baghdad during a combat patrol Monday night, killing five soldiers and injuring two from the Army's First Infantry Division. A sixth US soldier died Monday of wounds from a roadside bomb that blasted an American patrol in Baghdad.
Early today, a US Marine helicopter crashed near the town of Rutbah in western Iraq while conducting security operations, the US military said. There was no immediate word on casualties or the cause of the crash. A military statement said the aircraft was transporting personnel from the First Marine Division. A search and rescue team had reached the site, the military said.
The videotape released yesterday showed Hallums, 56, an American who was seized Nov. 1 in Baghdad.
In the tape, the camera shows a gun pointed at his head. He begs Arab leaders to help win his release, citing in particular Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy, who he said ''is known for helping those who are suffering."
''I am please asking for help because my life is in danger because it's been proved I worked for American forces," Hallums says. ''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."
Hallums was seized along with Roberto Tarongoy, a Filipino who was not shown on the tape, and four other men who were freed in November. The hostages worked for a company that had a contract to provide food to the Iraqi military. It was unclear whether the tape was made recently.
Yesterday, gunfights erupted in the eastern part of Baghdad as police battled insurgents who had been handing out leaflets warning people not to vote. In the same area, police and insurgents exchanged fire as police attempted to check out a potential car bomb, and insurgents fired on Iraqi forces and American troops when they responded to another bomb that blew up at a school in the same area. Three police officers and two Iraqi Army soldiers were reported killed in various skirmishes around the city.
Insurgents also shot to death Qais Hashim Shameri, secretary-general of the judges council in the Justice Ministry. At least one other person in the car was killed. The Ansar al-Sunna Army, one of Iraq's most active insurgent groups, claimed responsibility.
Iraqi government officials yesterday also responded to charges by an international human rights group that they had violated detainees' human rights by beating them with electrical cords, kicking them and otherwise maltreating them. Interior Ministry officials came in for the most criticism from Human Rights Watch.
The deputy interior minister, General Hussein Ali Kamal, refused to admit that there had been any wrongdoing.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.