BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's most feared terror group claimed responsibility Saturday for kidnapping two Algerian diplomats this week. The panel drafting Iraq's new constitution postponed debate on contentious issues until Sunni Arabs end their boycott — raising new doubts that next month's deadline can be met.
An Internet statement Saturday attributed to the group Al Qaeda (search) in Iraq said it was responsible, claiming the "head of the Algerian mission was taken from the most-secured of areas." The claim's authenticity could not be verified.
The terror group also has claimed responsibility for attacks on three other key diplomats from Islamic countries, including Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif, who was seized July 2 as part of an apparent campaign to undermine Arab nations' support for the Iraqi government.
After al-Sherif's kidnapping, gunmen fired on envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain in what police said were kidnap attempts. The Pakistani escaped unharmed while the Bahraini envoy was slightly wounded.
Al Qaeda in Iraq later claimed al-Sherif had been killed but provided no evidence. It warned Muslim nations against deepening their ties with Baghdad.
The attacks appeared aimed at isolating Iraq's Shiite-dominated government from its neighbors as the leadership is trying to make progress on the political front. A new constitution must be approved by parliament by Aug. 15 and submitted to the voters two months later.
However, the commission drafting the document decided to put off debate on major unresolved issues such as federalism, dual nationality and Iraq's identity until 12 Sunni Arab members end their boycott, according to a Kurdish delegate, Mahmoud Othman.
The Sunni Arabs suspended participation after Tuesday's assassination of Sunni committee member Mijbil Issa and an adviser. The Sunnis said they would not return until there had been an international investigation into the killings, better security and a bigger Sunni voice in the deliberations.
Also Saturday, committee members rejected a Kurdish proposal to give Kurds the constitutional right to hold a referendum on self-determination after eight years, Shiite member Bahaa al-Araji said.
Many Sunni Arabs are suspicious that the Kurds' ultimate goal is to break away from Iraq and form their own state.
U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped that the new constitution would help undermine the Sunni Arab-led insurgency and restore stability, which has deteriorated sharply.
Insurgents continued a string of attacks Saturday against Iraqi police and civilians, leaving at least six dead.
Among the dead were three Fallujah police officers found slain Saturday about 6 miles east of the city, police said. Also, gunmen traveling in two cars shot and killed a Ministry of Interior employee Friday night, police Capt. Mohammed al-Obeidi said Saturday.