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Gunman in Iraqi Army uniform kills two

Fired on US military team

By Brian Murphy
Associated Press / May 3, 2009
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BAGHDAD - A gunman wearing an Iraqi Army uniform opened fire on a US military team yesterday, killing two American soldiers and wounding three, the US military said, in an attack that could sharpen worries about militant infiltration in Iraq's security forces.

Iraqi officials described the attacker - who was killed in the gun battle - as a soldier who was also a Sunni Muslim preacher for his unit near Mosul, one of the last urban strongholds for Sunni insurgents.

The ambush could increase pressure on the Shi'ite-led government to root out possible turncoats and slow efforts to bring Sunni militiamen into the police and military as rewards for helping battle Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent factions.

But any possible slowdown of the Sunni outreach will meet resistance from Washington, which sees the sectarian reconciliation as essential for Iraq's stability and to keep security gains from rolling back.

A US military statement said the attacker was killed after the assault at a combat outpost 12 miles south of Mosul. The military did not immediately identify the soldiers pending notification of next of kin.

In the past, attackers have used military and police uniforms to bypass checkpoints and gain access to heavily guarded bases. But several Iraqi military officials said the gunman was a low-ranking Iraqi soldier.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The attack would mark one of the few confirmed cases where a member of Iraq's security forces targeted US troops. On Feb. 24, two Iraqi police officers in Mosul opened fire on a visiting US military team, killing one American soldier and an interpreter. The gunmen remain fugitives.

Earlier this week, a US military spokesman, First Lieutenant John Brimley, called the February shooting "definitely an anomaly." Yesterday's attack follows the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq since September - with 18 American soldiers dying in April.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, security patrols were boosted after an attempted suicide bombing Friday was foiled by guards at the last moment at a Shi'ite mosque.

Tensions have risen in Kirkuk as Kurdish leaders seek to incorporate it into their semiautonomous area, making it one of the most politically sensitive issues for Iraqi leaders and for US military commanders preparing to withdraw their troops by the end of 2011.