BAGHDAD — An Iraqi soldier opened fire on a U.S. military team Saturday, killing two American soldiers and wounding three, the U.S. military said, in an attack that could sharpen worries about the extent of militant infiltration in Iraq's security forces.
Iraqi officials described the attacker — who was killed in the gunbattle — as a soldier who also served as a Sunni Muslim preacher for his unit near Mosul, which is one of the last urban strongholds for Sunni insurgents.
Such an ambush could increase pressure on the Shiite-led government to try to root out possible turncoats and slow efforts to bring Sunni militiamen into the police and military as rewards for helping battle al-Qaida 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 U.S. military statement said the attacker was killed after firing on the U.S. soldiers near the entrance to a combat outpost 12 miles south of Mosul. A separate gunman fired at other U.S. soldiers at the outpost, then fled, according to Maj. Derrick Cheng, a spokesman for American forces in northern Iraq.
It was the latest case of a member of Iraq's security forces targeting U.S. troops. On Feb. 24, two Iraqi police officers in Mosul opened fire on a visiting U.S. military team, killing one American soldier and an interpreter. The gunmen remain fugitives. Last week, a U.S. military spokesman, 1st Lt. John Brimley, called the February shooting "definitely an anomaly."
Saturday's attack follows the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since September — with 18 American soldiers dying in Iraq in April.
Elsewhere, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops arrested the leader of a Sunni paramilitary group north of Baghdad in the town of Duluiyah, Mullah Nadhim al-Jubouri, on warrants accusing him and his two brothers of terrorism. The move was likely to spark anger among members of the so-called Awakening Councils, which have turned against al-Qaida in Iraq in what is considered a key factor in the drop in violence.
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 Shiite mosque. Authorities identified the would-be attacker as a Syrian teenager who they believe was recruited by al-Qaida in Iraq.