By Ernesto Londoño and Qais Mizher
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 13, 2008
BAGHDAD, Nov. 12 -- An Iraqi soldier armed with an AK-47 assault rifle rigged with an extra large magazine opened fire Wednesday on U.S. soldiers in the northern city of Mosul, killing two and wounding six, U.S. military officials said. American soldiers returned fire, killing the Iraqi soldier.
The American soldiers were in the courtyard of an Iraqi army outpost in Zanjeli, in western Mosul, waiting for their lieutenant to wrap up a meeting with an Iraqi army captain, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
The Iraqi soldier walked into the courtyard, said something to another soldier, and shot an American soldier at close range in the head, said Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq. The Iraqi soldier then shot a second American soldier in the stomach, the general added.
"Basically he began spraying his weapon," Hertling said.
The rifles Iraqi soldiers carry have standard magazines that hold 30 rounds. The Iraqi soldier who opened fire on the Americans had a drum magazine, which can hold up to 75 bullets, Hertling said. "There may have been some premeditation," he added.
The American soldier shot in the head died shortly after the attack. The soldier shot in the stomach died later at a military hospital, U.S. officials said.
The incident came on a day when bombings in Baghdad killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens, Iraqi officials said. A U.S. military spokesman issued a statement late Wednesday disputing the number of fatalities. The spokesman said none of the attacks appeared to have been lethal.
Hertling dismissed reports by Iraqi officials who suggested that an altercation between Iraqi and American soldiers preceded the gunfire in Mosul, but he said he had no information on the shooter's motive. He said U.S. and Iraqi officials are jointly investigating the incident.
Officials said the six wounded soldiers were airlifted to a U.S. military base in Mosul, where they were in stable condition Wednesday night.
An Iraqi soldier killed two U.S. soldiers in Mosul in December in a similar incident. Those soldiers, Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell, 27, and Capt. Rowdy J. Inman, 38, were inspecting a site they had picked for a new outpost when an Iraqi soldier shot them at close range. Three other soldiers were wounded.
Two Iraqi officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity identified the Iraqi soldier as Barzan Mohammed of Tilkef, a suburb north of Mosul. He belonged to the 6th Brigade of the Iraqi army's 2nd Division.
Although security has improved dramatically in Iraq in recent months, Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, remains volatile and battered. Insurgent groups have been dealt sharp setbacks there, but they continue to maintain a foothold in the province, Nineveh, which is considered their last stronghold in Iraq.
U.S. soldiers stationed in Mosul frequently go on joint patrols with Iraqi soldiers and police officers, whom they coach and train.
Iraqi army and police units in the city have struggled to make inroads because many residents of the predominantly Sunni city are leery of the army there, which has in recent years been dominated by Kurds. Several police units are widely perceived as corrupt, are poorly trained and equipped, and remain somewhat infiltrated by extremists.
On Wednesday morning, two people were killed and eight were wounded by a car bomb in central Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.
Later in the day, at least 12 people were killed and 60 wounded in twin bombings in eastern Baghdad, the officials said, the latest in a string of similar attacks in recent days that have raised fears of deteriorating security in the capital. According to a tally by the Associated Press, there have been 19 bombings in Baghdad so far this month, compared with 28 in the entire month of October and 22 in September.
In the first of the twin bombings, a suicide bomber in a vehicle parked at a traffic circle in the New Baghdad area detonated explosives about 6 p.m., according to an official at the Interior Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The attack appeared to target a group of national police officers who had parked in front of the vehicle and were walking toward a store, witnesses said.
Minutes after the blast, a roadside bomb exploded near the opposite side of the traffic circle. Each blast killed six people, the official said.
The traffic circle is in a busy commercial area. An outdoor cafe near the initial bombing was packed.
"Many people were wounded at the coffee shop because they were sitting outdoors," said Faisal Ghazi, who lives nearby.
Special correspondent Zaid Sabah contributed to this report.