Insurgents in Iraq assassinate Kurdish parliament member

Monday, September 19, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Insurgents killed a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, his brother and their driver and wounded a second lawmaker in an ambush on their convoy north of Baghdad, officials said Sunday.

The men were heading to the capital for a National Assembly session Sunday at which legislators signed off on revisions to a draft constitution that will be voted on by Iraqis in an Oct. 15 referendum. The text was turned over to U.N. officials for printing and distribution to voters.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in the northwestern town of Tal Afar, where Iraqi and U.S. forces say they have dislodged insurgents who controlled much of the area.

The National Assembly session was marked by a moment of silence for Faris Nasir Hussein, the member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party assassinated late Saturday in a town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Kurdish legislator Haidar Shanoun was wounded, while Hussain's brother and driver were killed.

"The terrorists have launched a war of aggression against all Iraqis, (but) we are up to it," said Hussein Al-Shahristani, the legislature's deputy speaker.

The original draft of the proposed constitution was not voted on by parliament, and al-Shahristani did not call for legislative approval of the amendments Sunday. Referring to the referendum, he said approval "is the right of the people, not their representatives."

Revisions included an apparent bow to demands from the Arab League that Iraq be described as a founding member of that pan-Arab organization. Other changes included giving the federal government responsibility for management of water and the creation of two deputy prime minister positions.

Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which is the backbone of the insurgency, generally opposes the charter. Sunni, who held sway during the rule of Saddam Hussein, contend the constitution favors the Shiite majority and Kurds, who dominated the committee that wrote the document.

The attack on the lawmakers came after four days of bloodshed in Baghdad and throughout Iraq in which more than 250 people died.

The U.S. military reported that a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in western Iraq. The soldier, assigned to the 56th Brigade Combat Team, was taken to a U.S. military hospital where he died of his wounds Saturday night. The attack occurred near Al Asad Air Base in a volatile insurgent region near Syria.

At least 1,899 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

More clashes were reported in Tal Afar. U.S. troops said Sunday they killed six insurgents and detained four during operations in the town.

The Iraqi army said a total of 157 insurgents had been killed and 440 captured during the 10-day offensive. The army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Mohamed Jassim, said nine Iraqi soldiers and six policemen died.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded three others, police said.

In Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, about 200 militiamen brandished automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades for several hours at roadblocks, demanding the provincial governor order the immediate release of Sheikh Ahmed Fartosi, local commander of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Fartosi was arrested by British and Iraqi troops Friday. A military statement Sunday described Fartosi and another detained militant as "suspects in terror attacks" that killed nine soldiers of the U.S.-led coalition during the past two months in Basra.

Last year, the Mahdi Army fought U.S. and coalition troops in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The fighting ended after al-Sadr accepted a peace agreement negotiated by the Shiite clerical hierarchy.

On Baghdad's southern outskirts, a bomb exploded beneath a rail line and damaged a freight train carrying oil for the refinery of Dora. A plume of black smoke rose from the burning tankers, but police said the blast caused no casualties.

In Baghdad's eastern district of Rashad, police said they found the handcuffed bodies of four unidentified men shot to death.

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