Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick arrived less than a day after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with Iraqi interim government officials and gave a pep talk to U.S. troops. Both trips were kept secret for security reasons.
The day of Zoellick’s visit, insurgents set off a series of explosions, hitting a Defense Department convoy in Baghdad that killed five Iraqis and injured four U.S. contract workers, the U.S. military said.
Al-Qaida said in an Internet statement that it carried out the attack.
A second car bombing and a third “secondary explosion” nearby didn’t cause any damage, the military said.
But near the oil city of Kirkuk, 12 policemen gathered to help dismantle an apparent decoy bomb and were killed when another bomb exploded, according to the Associated Press. Three others were injured.
Police Brig. Sarhat Qadir said the explosion occurred 10 miles northwest of Kirkuk as police were trying to cordon off the area.
Also Wednesday, Al-Jazeera aired a video of a hostage, who appeared to be an American kidnapped earlier in the week in Baghdad. The hostage asked Washington to save his life by withdrawing from Iraq, the broadcaster said.
The U.S. Embassy said the man appeared to be Jeffrey Ake, a contract worker from Indiana who was kidnapped Monday while working on a water treatment plant near Baghdad.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the administration is keeping in touch with Ake’s family but would not negotiate with the abductors.
“Anytime there is a hostage — an American hostage, it is a high priority for the United States,” McClellan said, according to the AP. “Our position is well known when it comes to negotiating. Obviously, this is a sensitive matter.”
More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq in the past year, and more than 30 have been killed, reported the AP.
The attacks and kidnapping underscored the security challenges the newly elected leaders in Iraq face.
“We are obviously, in the aftermath of this election, in a key period of political formation,” Zoellick told reporters earlier in his military aircraft.
“This is a process of political transition, the formation of Iraqi democracy,” he said, according to Reuters.
Zoellick planned to meet with U.S. troops helping rebuild Fallujah after the U.S. offensive left much of it in ruins, and with newly elected Iraqi leaders in the heavily fortified Baghdad Green Zone.