A U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed Tuesday and three American troops were injured when gunmen, who officials said wore Iraqi police uniforms, fired on them in the northern city of Mosul.
It was the third time since November that men in Iraqi security force uniforms have attacked American forces in Nineveh province.
A brief U.S. military statement gave few details of the incident, saying it occurred about 2 p.m. during a meeting at an Iraqi police station. It said four Americans were injured and one later died. A second Iraqi interpreter also was injured.
However, Iraqi police said gunmen wearing police uniforms opened fire on the group at a bridge checkpoint in Mosul, the capital of Nineveh. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman, said the gunmen were manning the checkpoint and fled after the shooting. The official also reported that two Americans were killed.
Nineveh is considered the last stronghold of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq and also a battleground for Sunni Arab and Kurdish elements fighting for influence in the region. Unlike in most of Iraq, violence has not declined there significantly in recent months.
On Feb. 9, four U.S. troops were killed in an attack in Mosul; Iraqi and U.S. forces on Friday launched a military offensive in Nineveh.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Said Ahmed Juboori said Tuesday that the operation was being carried out by army and national police elements, in addition to American forces. He said it would lead to mass arrests.
Asked how it would be different from other offensives in the last two years, which have failed to quell Nineveh’s violence, Juboori said that this time security forces had narrowed their focus to specific names of suspected militants. Past operations were faulted for being announced in advance, giving insurgents time to go into hiding, or for involving wide sweeps that rounded up scores of people who later were released for lack of evidence.
In November, there were two incidents in which Iraqi security forces opened fire on U.S. troops. In one instance, an Iraqi soldier killed two Americans and wounded six before being shot to death by U.S. troops. In the second attack, an Iraqi soldier fired on Americans as they handed out aid to locals west of Mosul, killing two.
Violence nationwide is at its lowest level since August 2003, according to U.S. officials, and American troop deaths are their lowest since the Iraq war began in March 2003.
At least 4,251 American troops have died in the Iraq war, according to the website icasualties.org.
A special correspondent in Mosul contributed to this report.