July 27, 2005 in Nation/World

Bomb kills four soldiers

Bassem Mroue Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Friends and family members of Raad Muhawi, an Iraqi army captain, mourn while carrying his coffin during a funeral procession Tuesday in Basra. Muhawi was shot Tuesday in the city’s center.
(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A roadside bombing killed four American soldiers in southwestern Baghdad, the U.S. command said Tuesday, and 16 Iraqi government workers died in a hail of gunfire as they left work on the western edge of the capital.

The bloodshed occurred against a backdrop of intense deliberations to forge a new constitution by an Aug. 15 deadline. A draft copy published Tuesday in a government newspaper said Islam would be designated as the main source of legislation – a departure from the model set down by U.S. authorities during the occupation.

A statement by the U.S. command said the soldiers from Task Force Baghdad died Sunday night when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb. It gave no further details.

However, Jim Driscoll, a spokesman for the Georgia National Guard, said the victims were assigned to the 48th Infantry Brigade. They were the Georgia Guard unit’s first combat casualties since World War II.

The 16 Iraqi government employees were killed Tuesday evening on the western edge of the capital when gunmen fired at a pair of buses taking them from an Industry Ministry facility to their homes in Shiite neighborhoods.

Gunmen in two cars followed the buses and opened fire, also wounding 27 passengers, officials said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials hope that the new constitution and the government to be elected in December will help take the steam out of the insurgency, especially if the Sunni Arab community accepts the formula. Most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.

“It’s very important that the constitution is produced through the participation of all Iraqis,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Tuesday. “This is important for ending and defeating the insurgency.” He added that Sunni Arabs can count on the United States to ensure their interests are protected.

However, a draft published Tuesday in the state-owned Al-Sabah newspaper included several key points demanded by the majority Shiites. The draft not only states that Islam is the main source of legislation but that no law will be approved that contradicts “the rules of Islam.”

That requirement could affect women’s rights and set Iraq on a course far different from the one envisioned when U.S.-led forces invaded in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

“Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation,” the draft reads. “No law that contradicts with its rules can be promulgated.”

The document also grants the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf a “guiding role” in recognition of its “high national and religious symbolism.”

Al-Sabah noted, however, that there were unspecified differences among the committee on the Najaf portion. Those would presumably include Kurds, Sunni Arabs and secular Shiites on the 71-member committee.

During the U.S.-run occupation, which ended June 28, 2004, key Shiite and some Sunni politicians sought to have Islam designated the main source of legislation in the interim constitution, which took effect in March 2004.

However, the U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, agreed only that Islam would be considered “a source” – but not the only one. At the time, prominent Shiite politicians agreed to forego a public battle with Bremer and pursue the issue during the drafting of the permanent constitution.

Some women’s groups fear strict interpretation of Islamic principles could erode their rights in such areas as divorce and inheritance. It could also move Iraq toward a more religiously based society than was envisioned by U.S. planners who hoped it would be a beacon of Western-style democracy in a region of one-party rule and theocratic regimes.

Members of the constitutional committee said the draft was among several and none would be final until parliament approves the charter by Aug. 15.

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