BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi police mistook a group of Iraqi soldiers for insurgents Thursday and opened fire, sparking a 10-minute gunbattle that killed five in the northern town of Rabia (search). In the south, protesters demanded their representative be named the country's new oil minister.
The soldiers in Rabia, about 90 miles west of the larger city of Mosul (search), were dressed in civilian clothing and were carrying guns, according to the region's police chief, Ahmed Mohammed Khalaf (search). Three soldiers and two police were killed and another eight wounded.
In the southern city of Basra, more than 200 protesters demanded an individual from their petroleum-rich region be named head of the oil ministry. Some demonstrators even threatened to strike if their demands weren't met.
"Everyone must know that the oppressed and persecuted people of the south refuse to have their interests be ignored," protesters said in a statement given to the provincial governor, Mohammed al-Waeli.
Al-Waeli agreed, saying: "We are eager that the people of Basra and the south have clout in the new government."
As Iraq's post-election political process unfurls, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, sat down with a group of leading Sunni religious leaders Thursday in a Baghdad mosque.
In the meeting with the Association of Muslim Scholars, Qazi "stressed the importance of ensuring that all components of Iraqi society are adequately represented in the constitutional making process," a U.N. statement said.
Shiite Muslim and ethnic Kurdish parties, expected to formalize within days the top leadership of their promised coalition government, say they're considering involving the Sunnis beyond even just the eventual writing of Iraq's constitution.
The Sunnis, from whose ranks many insurgent fighters are believed drawn, largely stayed away from Iraq's historic Jan. 30 elections. Kurdish and Shiite negotiators say they're discussing handing a Sunni Arab the defense minister's post in an effort to include them in the process.
Shiite and Kurdish negotiators were expected to continue discussions Thursday in the capital, Baghdad.
Kurds are thought to number between 15 percent to 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, with Sunni Arabs roughly equivalent. Shiite Arabs make up 60 percent of the population.
In another protest in Baghdad Thursday, hundreds of electricity workers, fed up with insurgent attacks against the power sector that have killed many of their colleagues, marched through the streets shouting "No, no to terror!"
Insurgents kept up their campaign of attacks Thursday, targeting Americans with roadside bombs in the north and attacking Iraq's nascent army in the capital.
Two separate explosives planted in the streets of Mosul detonated near U.S. patrols, according to witnesses, who said they didn't believe there were any casualties.
One blast near a Mosul school caused panicked children to pile out of the building before lessons were canceled for the day, said Khairy Ilham, a shopkeeper who witnessed the blast. The U.S. military wasn't available for comment.
In Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a two-ton army truck transporting soldiers in an eastern neighborhood. The truck overturned, injuring 12 troop members, police Maj. Mousa Hussein said.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military announced that a prisoner died a day earlier at the Camp Charlie internment facility. The man, in his early 30s, was found lying in his cell Wednesday, four days after his arrival at Camp Charlie, the military said in a statement. Attempts to revive him failed, and the cause of death was under investigation.