Militants kill 12 Iraq soldiers in ambush

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The Independent Online

Twelve Iraqi troops were killed as they returned to northern city of Kirkuk, where they guard oil facilities.

Twelve Iraqi troops were killed as they returned to northern city of Kirkuk, where they guard oil facilities.

The Iraqi troops were returning to their base when they were ambushed yesterday in the deadliest attack since Sunday's general elections.

In another sign of potential trouble, a major Sunni clerical group declared that Sunday's elections "lack legitimacy" because many Sunni Arabs did not participate, saying the new government would have no mandate to guide the nation's future.

That suggested problems remain in reconciling with the Sunni Arabs, who comprise about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people but form the core of the insurgency.

Nevertheless, both Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his major Shi'ite Muslim rivals reached out to the Sunnis, promising them a major role in drafting the new constitution even though many Sunnis shunned the ballot — either out of fear of rebel attack or opposition to the electoral process.

"Definitely the Sunni Muslims will take part in the government and will have a role in the drafting of constitution," Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the main Shiite political faction, told The Associated Press.

Allawi, a secular Shiite backed by the Americans, told Iraqi television that the elections, which drew large turnouts except in Sunni insurgent strongholds, constituted a "major blow to all forces of terrorism."

He noted that attacks by Sunni insurgents had fallen dramatically since the elections but it was unclear whether the drop was the start of a trend. Insurgent activity also slowed after the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis in June but picked up weeks later. Allawi spoke before the 12 Iraqi security forces were killed.

"They might be reorganizing themselves and changing their plans," Allawi said of the insurgents. "The coming days and weeks will show whether this trend will continue ... But the final outcome will be failure. They will continue for months but this (insurgency) will end."

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