BAGHDAD – An Iraqi army soldier opened fire on American soldiers Saturday in northern Iraq, killing two and wounding three in an incident that raised fresh concerns about extremist infiltration of Iraq’s security forces as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.
The gunman, identified by local officials as Ali al-Dulaimi, approached a group of American soldiers as they were working out at a combat outpost in Hamam al-Alil, a town 15 miles south of Mosul, Iraqi officials said. The assailant opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle. U.S. soldiers fired back and killed him, said Maj. Derrick Cheng, a U.S. military spokesman.
About the same time, another assailant opened fire on other American soldiers on the compound, Cheng said. That gunman fled, he said. It was unclear whether any Americans were hurt in that incident.
At least seven U.S. troops have been killed in similar shootings in Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, since December 2007.
On Feb. 24, two Iraqi policemen opened fire on American troops at a police station in Mosul, killing one soldier and an interpreter. Three months earlier, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. troops at an Iraqi army base, killing two and wounding six.
Mosul is the Sunni insurgency’s last urban stronghold. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said they would like to keep American combat troops in the embattled city beyond the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal from cities.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi forces on Saturday arrested a prominent tribal leader in Thuluyah, a town north of Baghdad, on a warrant for terrorism, his relatives said.
The man, Nadhim Khalil, was an insurgent who joined forces with the U.S. military in 2007 to fight the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq. He was the subject of a Jan. 13 story in the Washington Post that showed how dramatically the U.S. military’s initiative to put insurgents on payroll had altered the power structure across Iraq.
The U.S. military in recent weeks stopped paying the 94,000 or so members of the Sunni paramilitary groups, called Awakening Councils and Sons of Iraq. They are now under the control of the Shiite-led Iraqi government, which many accuse of targeting members indiscriminately and failing to pay them on time.
“This is a conspiracy by the Iraqi government to eliminate all the patriotic Awakening leaders that would have fared well in the upcoming national election,” Rabe al-Jaboury, an Awakening leader in Thuluyah, said in a phone interview.
Jaboury said local Awakening leaders have given the U.S. military 48 hours to release Khalil.
“If they don’t release him, all Awakening fighters will become like a fork in the eye of the government, even if we have to cooperate with al-Qaida to fight the government,” he said.