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American hostage rescued after 10 months in Iraq

4 US guards, 16 others killed in Basra-area blasts

BAGHDAD -- The US military, acting on a tip, raided an isolated farmhouse outside the capital yesterday and rescued an American held hostage for 10 months. The kidnappers, who had kept their captive bound and gagged, escaped without a gun battle.

The rescue came on a day that saw two deadly bombings around the southern city of Basra, fueling fears the bloody insurgency was taking deeper root outside Sunni-dominated territory. A roadside bomb killed four American security guards, and an Interior Ministry official said 16 people were killed and 21 were injured in a car bombing at a restaurant in a central market.

Roy Hallums, 57, was ''in good condition and is receiving medical care," a military statement said after US forces freed him and an unidentified Iraqi from the farmhouse 15 miles south of Baghdad.

The tipster whose information led to Hallums's release was captured just a few hours before the operation, said Lieutenant Colonel Steven A. Boylan, a military spokesman.

Hallums called his daughter early yesterday from Iraq with news of his rescue, and apologized for causing her so much grief and pain. ''He apologized to me for putting me through any hardship," his eldest daughter, Carrie Anne Cooper, 29, said by telephone from her Westminster, Calif., home. ''He got to say he was sorry, and I got to say I loved him. We got to say things we never thought we would be able to say."

Hallums, formerly of Newport Beach, Calif., was kidnapped at gunpoint from his office in the Mansour district of Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2004. At the time, he was working for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Co., supplying food to the Iraqi Army.

An Iraqi guard and one attacker were killed in the assault. The kidnappers also seized a Filipino, a Nepalese, and three Iraqis, but later freed them.

''Considering what he's been through, I understand he's in good condition," said his former wife, Susan Hallums, 53, of Corona, Calif.

In a January video issued by his kidnappers, Hallums had a gun pointed at his head. In the video, Hallums asked Arab leaders, singling out Moammar Khadafy of Libya, to save his life. Khadafy responded by calling on insurgents to release the American.

The family sent fliers to Iraq that, in English and Arabic, offered a $40,000 reward. Susan Hallums had planned to raise the money by selling a house in Memphis left to her by her late mother.

She and her husband of 30 years divorced a few years ago but remained good friends. They have another daughter, Amanda Hallums, 26, of Tennessee.

Hallums had been bound and gagged for much of his time in captivity, but doctors gave him a ''clean bill of health" after the rescue, Cooper said. Hallums told his family the kidnappers escaped and that he planned to return to the United States within days.

In a statement released by the military, Hallums said he and the rescued Iraqi were grateful.

''I want to thank all of those who were involved in my rescue -- to those who continuously tracked my captors and location, and to those who physically brought me freedom today," he said. ''To all of you, I will be forever grateful. Both of us are in good health and look forward to returning to our respective families. Thank you to all who kept me and my family in their thoughts and prayers."

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq since the war began in March 2003; more than 30 have been killed.

Yesterday's roadside bombing in southern Iraq was noteworthy because attacks against Americans in the region of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, are rare. The United States has only a minimal presence in the area. Also, Shi'ites, who are the dominant population in the south, have found themselves the political winners as new government structures take shape after the US-led invasion. The bomb flipped the guards' white sport utility vehicle onto its roof in a ravine along a highway near Basra, a major oil center under the control of Britain's 8,500-strong contingent.

The car bombing happened later yesterday at a takeout restaurant in a central Basra market, killing 16 and wounding 21, said an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. Two police vehicles and several nearby shops were destroyed in the blast.

Meanwhile, a US soldier was killed yesterday in a noncombat accident in central Iraq, the military said.

Also yesterday, an official of the court that will try Saddam Hussein discounted a claim by Iraq's president that the former leader had admitted wrongdoing in a confession to mass killings and other crimes during his rule.

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