June 24, 2008 in Nation/World

Two U.S. soldiers killed when Iraqi politician opens fire

Mohammed Al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam McClatchy
 
Associated Press photo

A U.S. Army soldier patrols in Salman Pak, about 15 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, on Monday, June 23, 2008. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

MADAIN, Iraq – A U.S.-allied Iraqi council member sprayed American troops with gunfire Monday, killing two soldiers and wounding three and an interpreter, Iraqi authorities and witnesses said. The attack occurred minutes after they emerged from a weekly joint meeting on reconstruction in this volatile town southeast of Baghdad.

Raed Mahmoud Ajil, a former high school principal in his mid-40s, was known as a respected city council member and devoted educator who’d recently returned to Iraq after completing his master’s degree in India, stunned colleagues said. U.S. troops shot and killed him at the scene.

Ajil’s colleagues said they could think of no motive for the deadly rampage, which is thought to be the first incident of a U.S.-allied Iraqi politician carrying out such an attack. Ajil comes from a distinguished Sunni Muslim family. His brother is security chief for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and a cousin is a high-ranking judge, relatives said.

Ajil’s family said he’d suffered from bouts of depression and sporadic epileptic seizures, which he masked in his role as a public servant. Relatives knew him to be friendly to U.S. troops and said he had no qualms about working alongside them, even though many in this mixed Sunni-Shiite Muslim town view American forces as occupiers.

“(The Americans) used to love him. They gave him a contract for a project he was working on. He spoke English fluently with them, and they used to like him so much,” said Sherif Abdullah Aziz, 47, a cousin. “There is no explanation that we know of for what happened.”

Fadil Ahmed Abed, a Sunni council member who was formerly the chairman, said members of the council met with the Americans at about 10 a.m. after a ceremony to open a new city park. Abed said Ajil had sat silent during the meeting except when his signature was required for a school maintenance project. The meeting ran until about 1 p.m. As the Americans were walking out of the heavily guarded council headquarters, the shooting began.


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