BAGHDAD: Four US soldiers were killed in less than 24 hours in attacks north of the capital as insurgents kidnapped 22 Iraqi soldiers near the Syrian border yesterday.
A US soldier was killed yesterday when his patrol hit a roadside bomb near Ad Dawr. In nearby Tikrit, ousted leader Saddam Hussein's hometown, two US soldiers were killed late on Tuesday in an "indirect fire attack," on their base, a military statement said.
Leaflets signed by the shadowy Islamic Army were plastered on shop fronts and walls in Tikrit claiming responsibility. Another US soldier based in Balad, also north of Baghdad, was killed in a roadside bomb on Tuesday.
With no let-up in the targeting of the country's fledgling security forces, senior Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz Al Hakim demanded that the armed wing of his party play a greater role in hunting down insurgents, who have also singled out the country's majority Shi'ite community for attacks.
The soldiers, all Shi'ites from the south, were nabbed by armed men in Rawa, about 250km west of Baghdad, after they had left their base.
And at another flashpoint on the Iraq-Syrian frontier, a joint Iraqi-US force pressed on with an offensive against insurgents in the northern town of Tal Afar, west of the main city of Mosul.
Four bombers were killed when their explosives-laden vehicle detonated prematurely in Tal Afar, said Captain Ahmed Amjad of the Iraqi police.
Troops have found and destroyed nine weapons caches and detained 73 suspects since the start of the operation in Tal Afar on May 26, the US military said, adding that it was part of about 30 solo Iraqi or joint anti-insurgency operations nationwide.
Other violence included the killing of two guards of Kurdish deputy Fraidun Abdulqader as they drove in the capital's tense southern district of Dura.
And in a rare incident of its kind, three Iraqis and a Dutch man of Iraqi origin are being held in the Netherlands as part of an investigation into attacks against US military vehicles in Iraq, the Dutch prosecutor's office said.
In another sign of the majority Shi'ites' determination to cement their position in power after years of oppression under Saddam's Sunni dominated rule, Abdul Aziz Al Hakim called for greater influence over security matters for those who fought the previous regime.
In recognition of the "sacrifices and heroic positions of our brothers and brave sons from the Badr Organisation... we must give them priority in bearing administrative and government responsibilities especially in the security field", Hakim told a conference honouring Badr in Baghdad.
He leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a key member of the Shi'ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
Its Badr Organisation replaced the Badr Brigade which was formed by former SCIRI boss and Hakim's brother Mohammed Baqer Al Hakim in the 1980s to fight Saddam with backing and funding from Iran.
Leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arabs set terms yesterday for their involvement in drafting a constitution, indicating they wanted about a third of the seats on the body that is supposed to propose a new text by August.