2 US soldiers killed in Iraq explosion
* Supporter of Shia cleric Sadr shot dead
* Clerics criticise new constitution
BAGHDAD: Two US soldiers were killed and another wounded when their vehicle convoy struck a roadside bomb in Habaniyah, 70 kilometres west of Baghdad, the US military said in a statement.
“Two US soldiers from the first brigade combat team of Taskforce All American were killed and another solider wounded when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED) in Habaniyah,” the statement read.
The latest deaths bring to 556 the number of US service members who have died since the United States launched the Iraq war in March. Most have died since US President George W. Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
In Baghdad, a prominent supporter of radical Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr was shot to death, Adnan al-Safi, a spokesman of the movement, said on Friday.
In central Baghdad, more than 1,000 Shias rallied against the US presence in Iraq, chanting, “Kill America, kill America” and “Yes, yes to Islam.” Protesters hurled stones at a passing pair of armoured civilian SUVs, of the type often used by Coalition workers or plainclothes security officials, forcing the vehicles to back away. There were no injuries.
Iraq’s Shia clerics criticised on Friday the new interim constitution but fell short of calling for protests.
In Najaf, 160 kilometres from Baghdad, leader Sadreddin Kubanji criticised the “weakness” of the document and said the power it gives Kurds “threatens the unity of the country.” Young firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr lived up to his reputation for being blunt when he likened the text to a British declaration inviting Jews to settle in Palestine in 1917.
“This constitution is like the Balfour Declaration that sold Palestine. We are selling Iraq and Islam. This is a bad signal to send,” he told the faithful at a mosque in Kufa, near Najaf. In the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, an Iraqi insurgent group posted fliers on a mosque claiming that it was working with Al Qaeda and threatened attacks against US forces in Kuwait.
“We announce for the first time that there is a coordination between our organization and Al Qaeda through the representative of Sheik Osama Bin Laden,” read the pamphlet, signed by the Iraqi Islamic Army. The American civilians slain on Tuesday along with their translator were the first from the US occupation authority to be killed in Iraq. The attack raised two possibilities: that guerrillas had adopted a new tactic of posing as police to carry out attacks. Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, said it was not yet known if the attackers were disguised as police or the real thing.”—Agencies