BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents used a land mine and a roadside bomb to kill three U.S. Army soldiers and wound four on Saturday in attacks that brought to eight the number of American service members who have died in the last three days.
In Baghdad, the campaign for Iraq's Dec. 15 parliamentary election effectively began as several of the 18 coalitions scheduled news conferences to unveil their tickets.
On Friday, the deadline for candidates to file, a Sunni Arab coalition submitted its list of names, signaling greater Sunni participation in a process Washington hopes will help speed the day when U.S. troops can go home.
New information also emerged Saturday about a triple suicide vehicle attack that occurred near the Palestine Hotel (search) complex in Baghdad where many foreign journalists work. The well-coordinated attack killed 17 Iraqis on Monday and wounded several reporters.
The U.S. military said that one of its soldiers guarding the complex killed the suicide bomber who managed to penetrate the complex before he could reach the entrance of the building and set off his explosives.
"He was trying to kill people," said the soldier, Spc. Darrell Greens (search). "It was good we stopped him because he would have killed more people and destroyed the building."
The land mine that killed an U.S. soldier and wounded four occurred early Saturday near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. Two other U.S. Army soldiers died in south Baghdad on Saturday when their patrol struck a roadside bomb, the military said.
On Friday, the U.S. command announced that five other American service members were killed in Iraq the day before.
The eight deaths raised to 2,015 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count.
The December election follows the Oct. 15 ratification of the new constitution, which many Sunni Arabs opposed. Voters will choose a 275-member assembly to serve for four years. It will be the first full-term parliament in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The decision by a Sunni coalition to participate and the presence of prominent Sunnis on other tickets indicated that many members of the community, which forms the core of the insurgency, have not abandoned the political process.
Political battle lines, in fact, have been drawn as before along ethnic and religious lines, a development that complicates nation-building in this factious, war-ravaged country of 27 million people.
The major blocs include a Shiite alliance built around two religious parties with ties to Iran, a broad coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search), a secular Shiite, and the Sunni Arabs. Iraq's two main Kurdish parties will run on a single ticket.
Allawi's ticket includes several prominent Sunni Arabs, including Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer and Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, as well as the communists. It hopes to appeal to Iraqis fed up with religiously based politics.
But the ethnic and religious character of most of the tickets illustrates the sectarian nature of Iraq's postwar politics. Following the collapse of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime, majority Shiites and Kurds have been pressing for the power so long denied them.
Many Sunni Arabs believed the Americans and their foreign allies favored the Shiites and Kurds, thereby fueling the insurgency and triggering sectarian reprisal killings that have sharpened the religious and ethnic fault lines.