A roadside bomb exploded Wednesday near a passing convoy of American security guards in the southern city of Basra, killing four contractors, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.
Three of the men were killed instantly and a fourth died after British troops took him to a military hospital, embassy spokesman Peter Mitchell said.
"All four individuals worked for a private security firm supporting the regional U.S. Embassy office in Basra," Mitchell said in a statement.
Initial reports had indicated that the target of the attack was a British diplomatic convoy, but officials in London said no British personnel were involved.
In other developments:Coalition Forces rescued American hostage Roy Hallums and an Iraqi citizen on Wednesday from an isolated farm house south of Baghdad, a military statement said. "Hallums is in good condition and is receiving medical care," the military said.
Hallums was held in a farmhouse 15 miles south of Baghdad, the statement said, adding that rescuers were tipped to his whereabouts by an Iraqi detainee. Hallums had been held since he was kidnapped at gunpoint from his office in the Mansour district of Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2004.Iraq's president said Saddam Hussein has confessed to ordering killings and other crimes committed during his regime, including the massacre of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s. Jalal Talabani said the deposed leader "deserves to be executed 20 times a day." But a legal consultant retained by Saddam's family is skeptical of the alleged confession and said the news comes as a "big surprise." He said Saddam did not mention any confession when he met his lawyer Monday. The deputy head of the Iraqi Constitution Committee said the new charter would be sent to the government printing house Thursday. He said it was unchanged from the version sent to parliament by the drafting committee Aug. 28 after several deadlines were missed.In Baghdad, gunmen shot and killed a top Iraqi Defense Ministry official Wednesday as he drove through a dangerous neighborhood in the south of the capital. Separately, insurgents attacked an Interior Ministry commando patrol in the west of the city, killing a colonel and wounding four bodyguards.Insurgents bombed a pipeline carrying oil from a field near Khanaqin on the Iranian border Wednesday, interrupting a source of crude to Baghdad's Dora refinery, police said. A fire was burning and the full extent of the damage was not immediately known. The explosion occurred at a village not far from Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Iraqi officials said Tuesday that al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters had taken control of large areas of a strategic city on the Syrian border after weeks of fighting between an Iraqi tribe that supports the insurgents and one that opposes them. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said much of Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad, had been abandoned. U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Tuesday that Iraq had become an even greater terrorist center than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Attacks attributed to al Qaeda's wing in Iraq have stepped up in the Baghdad area and western Iraq.
In Basra, AP Television News videotape showed an overturned white SUV in a ravine next to a busy highway. Six British Army Land Rovers, together with Iraqi police cars and two civilian ambulances were parked nearby. British soldiers were seen loading a body from the SUV into a military ambulance.
© 2005 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.