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MID: Five US soldiers shot dead at Iraq base

By Benjamin Morgan
12 May 2009 1:26 AM
(EDS: Takes in Iraq Shooting and Iraq Soldier)

BAGHDAD, May 11 AFP - A US soldier opened fire on his comrades at the largest American base in Iraq on Monday, killing five soldiers in what was the single deadliest toll on US forces in a month.

A US defence official in Washington said that at least two others were wounded in the deadly attack at Camp Liberty in the Iraqi capital.

The details of the shooting incident remained unclear as US television networks CNN and MSNBC reported that the soldier had turned a gun on himself.

The US military said in a statement that "five coalition forces members were killed in a shooting at Camp Liberty in Baghdad today at approximately 2 pm (1100 GMT)."

It said that the incident was under investigation, but provided no further details of the murders.

The shooting was the deadliest single toll of US forces in Iraq since April 10 when five American soldiers were killed by a suicide truck bomb that ploughed into an Iraqi police compound in the northern city of Mosul.

Attacks by US soldiers on their colleagues are not uncommon in Iraq, and the last such report was on September 14 when US sergeant Joseph Bozicevich shot dead two of his superiors at a base south of Baghdad.

Bozicevich, 39, killed staff sergeant Darris Dawson 24, and sergeant Wesley Durbin 26, because he could not bear being berated by them, according to reports.

Monday's attack in Baghdad comes at sensitive time in the American military's six-year occupation of the country it invaded in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

In recent weeks bombings in the capital that have raised concerns about whether Iraqi security forces are battle ready as US forces prepare to withdraw from the nation's urban areas.

Baghdad has been hit by a series of deadly bombings targeting crowded civilian areas in recent weeks, and April was the bloodiest month in Iraq since September, with 355 people killed, according to official figures.

Despite the recent violence, Iraq has insisted it will stick to the deadline for American troops to withdraw from cities by June 30, while Washington's top commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has insisted the pullout is on track.

The withdrawal is part of a military accord signed between Washington and Baghdad that will see US forces leave Iraq completely by the end of 2011.

The US military also announced on Monday that an American soldier was killed in the southern oil hub of Basra on May 10 in a roadside bombing.

Monday's shooting brought to 4,293 the number of American losses since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, according to an AFP count based on the independent website icasualties.org.

Also on Monday, one of Baghdad's most senior police chiefs was assassinated in a drive-by shooting, a police official told AFP.

Gunmen shot dead the head of police operations, Abdul Hussein Mohsen al-Kadhemi, as he was driving in central Baghdad, he said.

In Mosul, considered to be the last urban stronghold of Islamist militants in Iraq, one policeman was killed and another was wounded when their patrol came under attack by gunmen.

And on Saturday, an Iraqi police general was killed near the southern oil hub of Basra, in a rare instance of violence in the country's third largest urban area.

Iraqi government and security forces are frequent targets of insurgents despite the steady improvement in security over the past two years.