The South Koreans were killed on Sunday near ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in a shooting incident, said Seoul’s foreign ministry. Two other South Koreans were also wounded in the incident.

South Korean officials said the four victims of the attack were employees of Omu Electronics in Seoul's Guro Industrial Complex and had travelled to Iraq on November 22.

Acting ambassador to Iraq Son Se-ju said the victims were working on an electric cable project near Tikrit.

They were staying at a hotel in Baghdad and were probably on their way to Tikrit, Son added.

A US military spokesman confirmed three people had been killed in an attack on a convoy near Tikrit but he refused to say whether they included the Koreans. He appeared to be talking about the same incident.

There are about 30 South Korean civilians including diplomats in Iraq in addition to 464 South Korean troops working as medics and engineers, the foreign ministry said.

The latter have been based in Nasiriya, 375km southeast of Baghdad, since May without incident.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has committed his country to send more troops to Iraq but has yet to make the politically sensitive decision whether to include combat forces in the expected 3000-strong contingent.

Contractors killed

A Colombian civilian contractor was also killed and two colleagues wounded on Saturday in an ambush near Balad, north of Baghdad, US military officials announced on Sunday.

Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar vowed
 his troops would stay in Iraq

The deaths come a day after two separate incidents in the country in which seven Spanish intelligence officers and two Japanese diplomats were killed.

Despite pressure from political rivals and an equally hostile public, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar insisted on Sunday that Madrid would not be deterred from its role in Iraq despite the killing of seven Spanish intelligence agents there.
 
Aznar said Spain's presence in Iraq “makes sense”.  Spain has some 1300 troops in south-central Iraq in a zone under Polish command.

Occupation officials also revealed Sunday that two US soldiers were killed near the Syrian border on Saturday.

Iraqi toll

Casualties among Iraqis also continue to rise. Three Iraqis were killed on Sunday, apparently after a roadside bomb they were planting exploded prematurely near the northern city of Kirkuk, according to police.

The men were from the area, said police. One had been a member of Hussein's ousted Baath party, they added.

The US army also handed over seven unidentified bodies to police in the northern town of Falluja, said an Iraqi police officer.

The bodies, in black plastic sacks, were transferred on Saturday to a Falluja hospital where Dr Ali Khamis Sarhan said several local people with missing relatives tried but failed to identify the men.
  
The corpses were then passed on to a hospital in Ramadi, 50km further west, to try to determine the causes of their deaths.