Three U.S. Soldiers Killed, four wounded in Iraq

Insurgents using roadside bombs and small arms fire killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded four, the military said Thursday.

Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft destroyed more militant safe houses near the Syrian border and apparently killed a senior al-Qaida in Iraq figure who was using religious courts to try Iraqis who supported coalition forces, the military said.

In Baghdad, back-room dealmaking continued as political blocs sought to forge new alliances before the Friday deadline for them to file candidate lists for Iraq's Dec. 15 election.

On Wednesday, three Sunni Arab groups the General Conference for the People of Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue joined forces to field candidates in the election, which was made possible by Iraq's newly ratified constitution.

But an influential group of hardline Sunni Arab clerics, the Association of Muslim Scholars, denounced the constitution and said they will not join the political process.

Those contradictory statements signaled confusion within the minority Sunni Arab community, which forms the core of the insurgency, over how to go forward after it failed to block ratification of the new constitution in the Oct. 15 referendum.

Two U.S. Army soldiers were killed Wednesday when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the military said. That same day, a roadside bomb and small arms fire struck an Army patrol near Ashraf village, north of Baghdad, killing one American soldier and wounding four, the military said, reports the AP. I.L.