Gunmen killed at least six people Thursday in attacks across Iraq, including one that left a young girl wounded and her parents dead, police said. Negotiators pressed ahead on a draft constitution as a parliamentary vote deadline loomed.
Insurgent attacks have continued during the weeks-long effort by leaders from Iraq's disparate groups to write a constitution that is supposed to be approved by parliament Monday and put before voters in an Oct. 15 referendum. U.S. and Iraqi officials hope political progress will deflate the insurgency.
A top Shiite Muslim leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim (search), urged leaders to not miss their opportunity to write a unifying document for the fractured country.
"We should not let this chance of accomplishing this goal to go away," al-Hakim said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf marking the death of his brother, a prominent Shiite cleric who was assassinated. "It is a sacred aim and there should be constitutional guarantees to accomplish that."
Al-Hakim spoke one day after meeting with Iraq's most important Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (search). Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence in the country's Shiite majority, also met separately with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search).
The major obstacle to agreement has been the Kurds' demand that Iraq be transformed into a federal state as a way to protect their self-rule in three northern provinces. Sunni Arabs oppose that, fearing Kurds want to declare independence. Shiites are divided, with factions supporting federalism wanting to build a Shiite region in the south.
In the overnight attack that orphaned the 12-year-old girl, gunmen killed her mother and father, a pharmacist, in west Baghdad, police said. The girl was lightly injured and released to relatives, Dr. Muhannad Jawad of Yarmouk Hospital (search) said.
Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and one officer kidnapped in separate attacks across the country. In one attack, gunmen burst into the home of an intelligence official from the Defense Ministry and killed him as he was preparing for work in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, police Capt. Mushtaq Kadhim said.
A civilian walking to a Shiite mosque in Baghdad for afternoon prayers was killed by gunmen, police Capt. Talib Thamir said. Insurgents have repeatedly tried to incite sectarian violence by targeting rival sects.
Also Thursday, an employee in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office, Thair Wahib al-Jumili (search), was seriously wounded by gunmen north of the troubled city of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
U.S. troops searched through homes and farmland south of Beiji, police said, in an area where four U.S. soldiers were killed Tuesday. Insurgents in the Beiji area, 155 miles north of Baghdad, also killed five Iraqi soldiers and wounded two others Wednesday in a separate attack.