A gunman wearing an Iraqi army uniform killed two American soldiers Tuesday in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said. They were the first American soldiers killed since the U.S. officially ended combat operations in the country last week.
The attack occurred within an Iraqi army compound near the city of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddin province while a U.S. army company commander was meeting with local security forces.
"Eleven U.S. soldiers were engaged with small arms fire, killing two and wounding nine, inside an Iraqi army commando compound," a military statement said.
"The event occurred at approximately 3:50 pm local time (12:50 GMT) when a person wearing an Iraqi army uniform opened fire on the soldiers. The assailant was shot and killed and the soldiers were medically evacuated... The individual medical conditions of the wounded cannot be confirmed at this time."
The deaths were the first American military fatalities in Iraq since the U.S. declared an end to its combat mission, transforming its role into what it has described as "advise and assist" operations.
"This is a tragic and cowardly act, which I firmly believe was an isolated incident and is certainly not reflective of the Iraqi security forces in Salaheddin," said Major General Tony Cuculo, commander of American forces in northern Iraq.
The killings bring to 4,418 the total number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, according to an AFP tally based on independent website icasualties.org.
While nearly 50,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in Iraq, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden launched the new mission while visiting Baghdad last week, opening up a fresh phase in a seven-year deployment.