The American military announced yesterday that four soldiers were killed Tuesday and six other people were wounded when insurgents attacked a patrol near Baiji, a town in northern Iraq.
The American command also disclosed that another soldier had been killed Tuesday by small-arms fire in a 1,000-soldier sweep of the Euphrates River corridor in western Anbar province, a redoubt for the insurgency.
Five of the six who were wounded near Baiji were soldiers and the sixth was an American military contractor, a military spokesman said.
The announcements came as the leaders of Iraq's political blocs met for a third time in Baghdad in an attempt to work through impasses that have stymied a committee mandated to draft a new constitution.
But with only five days to go before the constitution's deadline, none of the most contentious issues - including the role of Islam in legislation, the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the degree of power that should be accorded to regional authorities - were settled, officials said.
The American patrol in Baiji, an oil refining town, was struck by a large roadside bomb while the soldiers were investigating an explosion in the area, said Sgt. First Class David Rhodes, a spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division. The division is based in Troy, N.Y., and has been overseeing security in four northern provinces since February.
As the able-bodied soldiers tended to the casualties, the patrol came under attack by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, the spokesman said. The contractor wounded in the attack was a dog handler, he added; dogs are often used by the military to detect explosives.
The incident was reminiscent of an attack last week in which 14 Marines died when their amphibious armored vehicle hit a buried stack of land mines near Haditha, in Anbar province.
In the Iraqi capital, a suicide car bomber blew himself up next to a patrol of Iraqi police officers in the western suburb of Ghazaliya, killing six people, including two police officers, an Interior Ministry official reported. Two other police officers and 14 civilians were wounded in the attack, the official said.
The leaders of the country's political blocs met yesterday for the third day of a summit to discuss the constitution; the National Assembly has given itself a Monday deadline to approve a draft. The document is supposed to be submitted for a national referendum in mid-October.
A spokesman for President Jalal Talabani, who attended the meeting, said the participants wrestled with several of the most intractable issues yesterday, including federalism, the distribution of oil revenues and the electoral system.
The spokesman, Kamraan Qaradaghi, also said that the roster of participants had widened to include several political groups that represent Sunni Arabs but have no representation in the National Assembly. The Bush administration has been pushing the Shiite-dominated government to incorporate more Sunni Arabs into the political process in the hope that greater inclusiveness will give more legitimacy to the constitution and defuse the Sunni-led insurgency.
At a separate news conference, three members of the National Assembly's constitutional committee said the drafters were still discussing essential authorities of the constitution, including whether to form a constitutional court and how much flexibility to provide for the passage of amendments.
In a window on the intricacies and nuances of the discussions, Ali Adeeb, a Shiite member of the committee, pointed to the dizzying array of questions surrounding the definition of federalism and the sort of provincial authorities that may be created.
"Is it a national or geographic or a historical federalism?" he said with some degree of exasperation. "Is it applied all over Iraq? How many will we make? And we're still discovering the meaning of 'region.' Is it one province or two? And how do we join two provinces?"
In other violence yesterday, insurgents fired a mortar round into Antar Square in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Adamiya in northern Baghdad, the ministry official said. The explosion killed a traffic policeman and wounded seven other people, the official reported.
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced that security forces had discovered and defused a suicide car bomb in the affluent Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad. The car was rigged with five 155-millimeter artillery rounds and five antitank mines, the ministry said.
The American military also announced the conclusion of a weeklong offensive in the Euphrates River corridor in Anbar province, where insurgents had been attacking American-led coalition forces.
But like similar missions, the latest operation appeared to have underwhelming results. According to the final scorecard posted by the military yesterday, soldiers discovered nine vehicle car bombs, six of which were found in a garage used for rigging such weapons, and 28 improvised bombs planted on the side of roads or near buildings. The sweep also netted 36 suspected insurgents, who have been detained for questioning, the military said.