An Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. forces in Nineveh province in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing two and wounding six before he was shot to death by American troops, the U.S. military said.
The motive for the attack was unclear. U.S. officials said the Iraqi unleashed a barrage of AK-47 fire without provocation; Iraqis said the soldier was angry after an incident with U.S. troops.
A similar shooting occurred in the area in December. Two U.S. soldiers were killed by an Iraqi soldier in Nineveh, which remains one of the country’s most volatile areas because of the presence of Sunni Muslim insurgents loyal to the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and friction between Arabs and Kurds vying for influence. The Iraqi soldier is awaiting trial in Baghdad.
Army Maj. Margaret Kageleiry, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said the shooting Wednesday occurred shortly before noon as a group of U.S. troops was conducting a routine visit to an Iraqi security post. While some of the Americans were standing in the courtyard of the post, an Iraqi soldier walked in carrying an AK-47 and a drum full of ammunition, Kageleiry said.
“He walked into the courtyard, said a couple of words to another Iraqi soldier, and then turned and opened fire on the Americans without saying a word,” she said.
One soldier died at the scene. A second died later, and six were wounded. The Americans fired back at the Iraqi, killing him.
Iraqi officials confirmed that an Iraqi soldier had opened fire, killing at least two Americans, but the Iraqi version differed.
Iraqis who said they had witnessed the incident and who did not want to be identified said the Americans exchanged angry words with the Iraqi soldier after stopping to inspect the post. The Iraqi became angry when the Americans became physically aggressive and he then opened fire, according to the Iraqis’ report. Iraqi police put the number of Americans killed at four.
Kageleiry said the report of an altercation was “completely false” and that Iraqi officials were working with the Americans to investigate.
“They don’t know anything about motivation. They have no idea why this guy would do this,” she said.
At least 4,195 U.S. forces have died in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003, according to the independent website icasualties.org.
A special correspondent in Mosul contributed to this report.