BAGHDAD, Iraq – Roadside bombs have claimed more American lives, killing three U.S. soldiers in separate attacks in Baghdad (search) and Sunni Muslim areas to the north of the capital. At least six soldiers were wounded in the attacks, one critically.
In the biggest attack, one soldier from Task Force Iron Horse (search) was killed and four were wounded in a roadside bombing in Baqouba (search), 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. One of the wounded was critically injured and the other three were in guarded condition, the military said.
A soldier from Task Force Olympia (search) was killed and another wounded by a bomb Monday evening in Tall Afar in northern Iraq. A soldier from the 1st Armored Division died and another was wounded in a bombing Monday in central Baghdad.
The latest deaths brought to 541 the number of Americans who have died since President Bush launched the Iraq war on March 20. Most of the casualties have occurred since Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
As the casualties mount, the United States and its allies are preparing to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis by July 1, despite disagreements over the best way to choose a new government.
On Monday, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said he would move to block any effort by Iraqi leaders to put Islamic law as the foundation of legislation in the interim constitution, which is supposed to take effect at the end of February.
However, Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council and a Sunni Muslim hard-liner, has proposed making Islamic law the "principal basis" of legislation, which many Iraqi women's groups fear will threaten their legal rights.
"Our position is clear," Bremer said when asked what he would do if the Iraqis wrote Islamic law as the principal basis of the legal code. "It can't be law until I sign it."
Bremer must sign all measures passed by the 25-member council before they can become law, including the interim constitution. Iraq's powerful Shiite clergy, however, wants the interim constitution to be approved by an elected legislature. Under U.S. plans, a permanent constitution would not be drawn up and voted on by the Iraqi people until 2005.
Under most interpretations of Islamic law, women's rights to seek divorce are strictly limited and they only receive half the inheritance of men. Islamic law also allows for polygamy and often permits marriage of girls at a younger age than does secular law.
Police, meanwhile, arrested five Iraqis suspected in the assassination of Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of the Governing Council who was gunned down on Sept. 20 as she left her Baghdad home, the Interior Ministry said.
The men were apprehended 10 days ago in the city of Amarah, 180 miles southeast of the capital, Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Kadhum Ibrahim told The Associated Press. They were arrested for using drugs but police uncovered "indications" they may have been involved in the al-Hashimi slaying, he said. Police were still investigating.
Al-Hashimi was the highest official in the post-Saddam Hussein administration to be killed in the persistent violence in Iraq since Saddam's fall.
Also Monday, relatives of the former speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Saadoun Hammadi, said the 74-year-old politician was released after nine months in U.S. custody.
Hammadi, who was not on the U.S. military's list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, was freed Saturday, relatives told Al-Jazeera Television. U.S. officials had no comment on the report.
Hammadi was a U.S.-educated proponent of economic liberalization and developed reforms after the 1980-88 war with Iran that were blocked by the sudden collapse in oil prices in 1990. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin.