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Roadside bomb kills 4 US soldiers in Iraq

16 government workers also slain

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

A statement by the US command said the soldiers from Task Force Baghdad died Sunday night when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in the southwestern part of the city. The statement gave no further details.

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 yesterday 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 Shi'ite neighborhoods. Gunmen in two cars followed the buses and opened fire, also wounding 27 passengers, officials said.

Also yesterday, Al Qaeda in Iraq said it had condemned to death two Algerian diplomats who were abducted in Baghdad, and a video made public showed the men blindfolded and in captivity. In the video, Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi gave their names and home addresses. It was the first time they had been seen since being hauled away at gunpoint last week.

A statement attributed to the terrorist group and posted on the Internet earlier yesterday said the group would kill the diplomats. There was no word on whether the threat was carried out.

In Algeria's capital, a top aide to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said the government was worried by the death threat but still hoped to negotiate the envoys' release.

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

US 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," US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters yesterday.

''This is important for ending and defeating the insurgency," Khalilzad said, adding that Sunni Arabs can count on the United States to ensure their interests are protected.

The draft constitution published yesterday in the state-owned Al-Sabah newspaper included several key points demanded by the majority Shi'ites. The draft not only states that Islam is the main source of legislation, but also that no law will be approved that contradicts ''the rules of Islam." That requirement that could affect women's rights and set Iraq on a course far different from the one envisioned when US-led forces invaded in 2003.

''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 Shi'ite religious leadership in Najaf a ''guiding role" in recognition of its ''high national and religious symbolism."

During the US-run occupation, which ended June 28, 2004, key Shi'ite 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 US governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, agreed only that Islam would be considered ''a source," but not the only one. At the time, prominent Shi'ite politicians agreed to forgo 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.

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