U.S. Aircraft Opens Fire on Sons of Iraq Members

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 3, 2009 9:48 AM

BAGHDAD, April 3 -- An American military aircraft opened fire Thursday night on Sons of Iraq members who were allegedly spotted placing a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday.

The incident, which killed one suspected member of the paramilitary group and wounded two, is the latest sign of the fraying allegiance between the paramilitary groups and the U.S. military.

The U.S. military recently stopped paying the Sons of Iraq, many of whom are former insurgents who were put on the American payroll in 2007 in a high-stakes strategy to quell the insurgency.

Under heavy pressure from the U.S. military, the Shiite-led Iraqi government agreed to assume responsibility for the payments to the predominantly Sunni armed groups and absorb some of them into its security forces.

But in recent weeks, several Sons of Iraq groups have disintegrated and some members have rejoined the insurgency, saying the government has failed to pay them on time and has been slow to admit them into police academies.

"Hostile acts will be engaged," Gen. Daniel Bolger, the U.S. commander who overseas Baghdad, said in a statement. "While we value our Sons of Iraq brothers, these men had broken faith with their fellow Sons of Iraq, the Iraqi people and us."

The U.S. military said an air weapons team spotted four men placing a roadside bomb near Taji, north of Baghdad, "near a critical road juncture." The military said several attacks have been carried out in recent months in the rural area, which is near a large U.S. military base.

U.S. soldiers who responded to the site at 9:30 p.m., shortly after the aircraft opened fire, found the body of one of the men, the military said. Two others who were wounded were found near an empty house, and a fourth had fled.

The incident comes less then a week after the arrest of a Sons of Iraq leader in the Fadil neighborhood of Baghdad sparked clashes between his followers and U.S.-backed Iraqi soldiers.

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