BAGHDAD, Iraq -A suicide bomber driving an empty fuel tanker detonated his vehicle Sunday near a police station in central Iraq, killing at least two people, police said.
Three Iraqi soldiers and two Oil Ministry employees were killed in two separate drive-by shootings in Baghdad, as the U.S. military announced the deaths of two American soldiers in a roadside bombing in central Iraq.
Iraq”s top political leaders were scheduled to meet Sunday to hammer out remaining differences on the draft constitution, due by Aug. 15. On Saturday, Sunni Arabs on the drafting committee rejected Kurdish demands for federalism as long as foreign forces remain in Iraq.
The suicide bomber blew up his vehicle before he reached the back entrance to the Salahuddin provincial police station in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Saad Ibrahim.
At least two police officers were killed, said hospital official Qais Mohammed. Thirteen people, including civilians, were injured and taken to the local hospital.
The U.S. military command said Sunday that a U.S. patrol with Task Force Liberty was hit Saturday evening in the city of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. All the soldiers were transported to a coalition medical facility where two of them died from wounds, the military statement said.
At least 1,827 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In Baghdad, three Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothing were gunned down Sunday as they were heading to work, said Dr. Muhannad Jawad of Yarmouk Hospital. A fourth soldier was injured in the morning attack, he said.
In other violence, gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying four Oil Ministry employees who worked at the Taji gas factory, killing two, police said. The other two were wounded in the attack on a highway on the outskirts of Baghdad.
In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said the insurgents had started using so-called "swarm" tactics — coordinating multiple attacks and firing from several locations — against coalition forces.
Late Friday, U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad repelled a series of coordinated attacks including suicide car bombs and killed six insurgents, the military said.
The Bush administration is hoping that progress on the political front will help curb the insurgency by luring Sunni Arabs away from rebel ranks. Key to maintaining the momentum is a new constitution, which must be approved by parliament by Aug. 15 and by voters in a referendum two months later.
Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political leaders planned to meet behind closed doors Sunday to try to overcome differences that have deadlocked the work of a 71-member committee charged with writing the constitution.
Those differences include federalism, the role of Islam, a description of Iraq”s national identity and the distribution of national wealth.
On Saturday, Sunni Arab members of the drafting committee rejected Kurdish demands to transform Iraq into a federal state, saying such a step should not be taken during foreign military occupation and an unstable security situation.
The Sunni delegates believe federalism should be discussed in the future when there is a parliament that represents all Iraqis, member Kamal Hamdan said. The interim 275-member National Assembly has only 17 Sunni Arab legislators — in large part because the disaffected minority largely boycotted the Jan. 30 election.
"The proposal rejects federalism at the present time because it is difficult to implement it when the country is occupied and the security situation is unstable," Hamdan said.
Most Kurds and some Shiites are for a federal system, but Sunni Arabs have opposed the idea, fearing it could lead to the breakup of Iraq.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on the political leaders to set aside their differences and "lay a foundation for a new Iraqi nation where all of its citizens are able to participate and no community is oppressed, marginalized or excluded."
The country”s most feared terror group, Al-Qaida in Iraq, warned Sunni Arabs on Saturday that voting in the Oct. 15 referendum would be the same thing as rejecting Islam. The group, led by Jordanian born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks, including suicide car bombings and kidnappings.