|Abu Musab Zarqawi (undated State Dept. photo)|
A militant group's website says Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest and bloodiest attacks in Iraq, has been injured. The claim emerged as insurgents launched another series of attacks Tuesday and the country's new government appeared closer to beginning work on drafting a permanent constitution for Iraq.
The group al-Qaida in Iraq called on Muslims to pray for al-Zarqawi's recovery.
The authenticity of the message could not be immediately verified. U.S. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said he had seen news reports on the website posting, but that he didn't know if the United States had been able to verify the militant group's claims.
Meanwhile, as Iraqi insurgents and radical Islamic extremists continued their campaign of violence against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens, a Shi'ite cleric said Tuesday that he has been chosen to head the 55-member committee responsible for drafting Iraq's new constitution.
Humman Hammoudi, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shi'ite coalition that holds a slim majority in the national assembly, said that a Kurdish legislator and Sunni Arab lawmaker had been chosen to be his deputies.
The committee was chosen by the 275-member National Assembly and presented to the parliament speaker.
A formal announcement has not yet been made.
The drafting committee will have three months to draw up a permanent constitution that is acceptable to Iraq's political and religious communities.
The United States, which had been urging the Iraqi government to move quickly to draft a new constitution, had no immediate reaction. However, during a recent visit to Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed U.S. concerns that the constitution reflects the country's diverse ethnic and religious makeup.
Meanwhile, Iraqi insurgents and Islamic extremists continued to target Shi'ite and Kurdish neighborhoods in the hopes of inspiring sectarian warfare. The latest attacks Tuesday came in the form of car bomb explosions in central Baghdad that killed two civilians and three U.S. soldiers. Another U.S. soldier was killed in a separate attack. Four U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday.
In Washington, Secretary of State Rice met with Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Spokesman Richard Boucher said high on the agenda would be the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Guantanamo Bay, where the United States runs a detention facility for suspected al-Qaida terrorists.
Mr. Boucher denied news reports in the U.S. media of a growing rift between the Bush Administration and the ICRC.
"The role of the Red Cross sometimes is to be critical and to raise issues and often we will agree where there are oversights or infractions or problems and sometimes we don't. And we've been quite clear when we don't agree with some of the positions they've taken," said Mr. Boucher.
Despite some U.S. objections to specific ICRC positions, Mr. Boucher said overall the United States is very supportive of its work.