The U.S. Embassy confirmed the name of an American contractor taken hostage six weeks ago in Baghdad - a man who has not been seen or heard from since - identifying him as Roy Hallums, a 56-year-old worker for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army.
The continuing bloodshed has dissuaded Iraq's political groups from organizing public rallies ahead of the country's Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, the first free vote since the overthrow of the monarchy 45 years ago.
The violence has been so widespread that preparations for the election have barely begun in the three central provinces that include Baghdad, Mosul and the battleground cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Although the election campaign officially kicked off Wednesday, so far only the Iraqi Communist Party was known to have held a public gathering.
Only hours earlier, insurgents lobbed rocket-propelled grenades at an Australian compound inside Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily fortified complex that houses the interim government and the U.S. Embassy. There were no casualties.
Also Friday, a government official said that Saddam Hussein's defense minister who surrendered to U.S. forces last year, Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, will join another notorious general - known as Chemical Ali - in the dock when judicial proceedings against top figures of the Baathist regime open next week.
In Mosul, third-largest city with over 1 million inhabitants, attackers ambushed a car and killed all four of its occupants.
Insurgent attacks in Mosul have increased dramatically since the U.S.-led operation last month to retake Fallujah, and efforts by the multinational forces and the interim government's troops to pacify the city have met with little success.
On Thursday, Gen. George W. Casey, commander of the multinational force, said his troops would work to boost security ahead of elections.
Twelve Americans have been kidnapped or are missing in Iraq. At least three Americans have been killed - all beheaded in abductions claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.