BAGHDAD, (AFP) — At least one Iraqi soldier gunned down two US troops at a training centre and a third American soldier in Iraq was killed in a separate incident on Saturday, the deadliest day for US forces since July.
The deaths were a stark reminder that, despite Washington having declared combat operations over in August, its 50,000-odd troops still stationed in Iraq remain at risk.
Saturday’s worst incident saw two soldiers killed and one wounded “while conducting operations in northern Iraq,” a US army statement said, without giving further details.
It was not immediately clear how many gunmen carried out the shooting.
An Iraqi army officer said two Iraqi soldiers opened fire on their American counterparts while a US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only one gunman was involved.
The shooting, the Iraqi officer said, took place at Al-Ghazlani training centre in west Mosul and was intentional, but he said it was unclear what provoked the incident.
The two Iraqi soldiers who carried out the shooting were arrested, the officer said.
Another officer at Nineveh Operations Command, the security command for the province of which Mosul is the capital, said one of the two was shot dead by US soldiers returning fire and the other was detained.
It was at least the second time in four months that US troops come under fire by Iraqi soldiers in the north of the country. On September 7, two US soldiers were killed and nine others wounded.
Also on Saturday a US soldier was killed “while conducting operations in central Iraq”, a US statement said, without providing details.
The death toll was the highest in a single day for American forces since July 2, when three soldiers died in separate “non-hostile” incidents, according to independent website www.icasualties.org.
Four US soldiers also died on September 8, 2009, in two separate roadside bombings in Baghdad and Salaheddin province, central Iraq.
Saturday’s deaths brings to 4,435 the number of American troops to have died in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, according to an AFP tally based on data from icasualties.
While combat operations were officially declared over at the end of August, US troops remaining in Iraq are tasked primarily with training and advising their Iraqi counterparts, ahead of a complete withdrawal at the end of the year under a bilateral security pact.
US soldiers in Iraq also take part in joint counter-terror operations with local forces and are permitted to fire their weapons in self-defence.