Two Iraqi soldiers shot and killed two U.S. servicemen and wounded three Saturday near the northern city of Mosul, the latest in a series of incidents involving security forces firing on Americans in the troubled area.
The attack on a combat outpost in Hammam Alil, about 12 miles south of Mosul, came amid deepening concern about insurgent infiltration of the Iraqi security forces.
U.S. soldiers at the post returned fire and killed one of the gunmen, who was identified as an Iraqi soldier, said Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for U.S. forces in northern Iraq. The second gunman, whose identity was not clear to U.S. forces, opened fire from a different direction and managed to escape, Cheng said.
The Iraqi police identified the second gunman as Hassan Dulaimi, also an Iraqi soldier, and launched a search for him in the surrounding countryside.
In a similar incident in February, two Iraqi policemen opened fire on a group of American soldiers in Mosul, killing one and wounding an interpreter.
In November, an Iraqi soldier shot and killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded six at a joint security station in the city.
The attack Saturday brought the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war to 4,283, according to the website icasualties.org. The Mosul area remains one of the last holdouts of the Sunni Arab insurgency, and bombings and shootings are still a daily occurrence there. U.S. forces have offered to remain in Mosul beyond a June 30 deadline for their withdrawal from urban areas, but the Iraqi government has not responded.
Also Saturday, Iraqi police said they had obtained further evidence that Al Qaeda-affiliated groups may be behind a recent surge of violence. A would-be suicide bomber caught in Kirkuk was a Syrian, they said, and was a member of the Islamic State of Iraq, a group linked to Al Qaeda.
Amar Afif Hamada, 19, was captured at a Shiite mosque in the northern city wearing an explosives vest, police said. The site was packed with worshipers attending Friday prayers.
Hamada’s capture comes amid a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad aimed at Shiite Muslims, stoking fear that a rejuvenated Sunni insurgency is seeking to provoke another sectarian war as U.S. troops are preparing to withdraw from Iraq’s cities.
The Islamic State of Iraq is the name now used by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq when claiming responsibility for attacks around the country. U.S. officials believe foreign Al Qaeda fighters form the core of the group, and that the new name has been adopted in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on Al Qaeda activities.
The U.S. military has attributed the increase in the number of bombings to Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told Congress last month that Tunisian nationals were believed to have carried out some of the recent attacks.
Images broadcast on Iraqi TV show the Kirkuk mosque’s bodyguards pinning the bombing suspect to the ground as blood oozes from cuts to his head and hands. A man walks over and casually kicks him in the head.
Statements made to police by Hamada indicated that he was a relatively senior member of the Islamic State of Iraq who had spent the last 2 1/2 years in the still-volatile province of Diyala, said Kirkuk acting police chief Maj. Gen. Norhan Abdul-Rahman.
“He emphasized to us that he has accomplished all his jihad duties . . . and that he had decided with his full will to blow himself up,” Abdul-Rahman said.
Hamada had arrived in Kirkuk from Diyala three days earlier with a group of foreign fighters who were being sought by the authorities, he said.
After making the statements, Hamada lapsed into a coma because of the injuries he had received during his capture, police said.
A doctor at Kirkuk Hospital said Hamada had undergone surgery after suffering brain trauma and cerebral hemorrhage.
Hameed writes for The Times.
Special correspondents in Mosul and Kirkuk contributed to this report.