Monday, October 10, 2005

Insurgents Launch Pre-Referendum Attacks

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents launched a new salvo of attacks five days ahead of a crucial constitutional referendum, killing at least 18 Iraqis and a U.S. soldier Monday with suicide car bombs, roadside explosives and drive-by shootings, police said.

Five mortar shells were fired at a hotel in the southern city of Hillah where a U.S. regional embassy office is based, with one round hitting the building and leaving a large hole in a wall, police said. No casualties were reported.

Gunmen also opened fire on a convoy of cars carrying members of an Arab League delegation that is visiting Iraq, but no one was hurt, police said.

The attacks came as Shiite and Kurdish officials continued to negotiate with Sunni Arab leaders over last-minute additions to the constitution, trying to win Sunni support ahead of Saturday's referendum. U.S. officials were acting as mediators.

Sunni-led insurgent groups have demanded a boycott in the vote and were launching attacks across the country, killing hundreds of Iraqis in the last two weeks.

Sunnis can defeat the charter if they get a two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces - and they have the potential to make that threshold in four provinces. But turnout is key, since they must outweigh Shiite and Kurdish populations in some of those areas.

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