In the southern city of Basra, thousands of Shia Muslims rallied marched on Friday in a show of support for Iraq’s new constitution and the Shia-dominated government.
The demonstration of at least 5000 people in Basra, the country’s second largest city, was organised by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Shia Dawa Party.
The two parties are the largest political groupings in Iraq, and their representatives have played a key role in drafting the new charter which will be presented to voters in a referendum on 15 October.
Demonstrators chanted “Yes to the constitution”, and carried banners reading: “The constitution is a guarantee for better future,” and “Freedom and justice will be achieved by this constitution.”
In Ramadi, a Sunni city west of Baghdad, several hundred people demonstrated against the constitution, chanting “We are brothers, Sunnis and Shias, we will never sell this country.”
Numerous demonstrations for and against the proposed charter have highlighted the deepening rift between the Shia and Kurdish politicians who back it and the Sunni Arabs who oppose the constitution.
A lone man sprayed automatic fire
Meanwhile, in continuing sectarian violence, unidentified men opened fire on Sunni Muslim worshippers at Friday prayers in two mosques south of Baghdad, killing two people and injuring four, police said.
The first attack occurred when a lone man entered the Mizael Basha mosque in the town of Zubeir, 20km southwest of Baghdad and sprayed automatic fire on worshippers during dawn prayers.
One man was killed and four injured, police Col. Nouri al-Fayadh said.
Another Sunni mosque, the al-Rashidiya, was later attacked by a group of men who fled after shooting dead a guard, police said.
Also Friday, five Iraqi soldiers were killed and nine injured in a bombing against their convoy near Beiji, 250km north of Baghdad, the Iraqi military said.
In another incident, a car bomb killed at least one person in Baghdad on Friday, less than three km from a bridge where nearly 1000 people died in a stampede two days ago, police sources said.
A US military convoy was
The initial casualty toll also included one wounded policeman but details were scarce, the sources said.
It was not clear whether the car which blew up on Maghreb Street had been parked or was driven by a bomber.
In a separate incident on Friday morning in the capital, one person was killed and another wounded near a downtown hotel in what appeared to be a bomb attack on a private security convoy, according to an interior ministry official.
There were no immediate details on the identity of the victims.
Two Apache attack helicopters could be seen circling the area.
Another bomb was reported to have targeted a US military convoy, witnesses said. There were no reports of casualties in that incident.
Despite initial reports that a blast occurred near the Green Zone that houses Iraqi government offices, and the US and other embassies, a military spokesman said there were no reports of attacks there.
The US soldiers killed on Thursday
Security in the zone was boosted on Thursday after reports that several bombers were trying to penetrate the area, a frequent target for attacks.
US soldiers killed
Meanwhile, three US soldiers were killed in clashes in Baghdad and in a city south of the capital.
Two of the victims died on Thursday afternoon in Baghdad after their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb, a US military statement on Friday said.
The soldiers, who were not identified, were part of Task Force Baghdad.
Another US soldier was shot dead in the city of Iskandariyah in central Iraq on Wednesday, the military statement said.
The death occurred during combat operations near the city located 50km south of Baghdad.
The soldier, who was not identified, was assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force.