Iraqi police on Wednesday arrested the brother of an Iraqi soldier who was shot dead after gunning down two American troops following a row, security officials said.
Tuesday’s shooting led to the first US military fatalities in Iraq since Washington declared an official end to combat operations here last week, and came two days after American troops helped repel a coordinated suicide attack on an Iraqi army complex in Baghdad.
The shooter, named as enlisted soldier Soran Rahman Saleh Wali, opened fire on US troops who were visiting the Al-Saadiq Air Base near the town of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddin province, killing two American soldiers and wounding nine others after an argument erupted.
“Marwan, Soran’s brother, who works as a policeman in Tuz Khurmatu, was arrested yesterday by police forces and is now being held,” a police colonel in the town told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Iraqi and US joint forces also raided Soran’s house overnight, but did not find anyone there.”
The colonel added that Wali’s corpse had been sent to the morgue in Kirkuk. It received nine gunshots throughout his body, including his head and his abdomen.
There were no details on what set off the argument or on the Iraqi soldier’s possible motives.
However, Tuz Khurmatu police commander Colonel Hussein Bayati said that on Monday, US and Iraqi forces “began searching houses in the neighbourhood where this soldier was from because they suspected Ansar al-Sunna (insurgent) fighters were hiding there.”
It was unclear if Wali might have already been under surveillance or if the sweep had angered him.
The shooter’s immediate family declined to speak to AFP.
But his cousin and neighbour Abu Shwan said that he was “a moderate in his religious views, and he was not strict in his beliefs.”
US forces said the incident occurred at around 3:50 pm (1250 GMT), and that the condition of the wounded, who were evacuated to Joint Base Balad north of Baghdad, could not be confirmed.
It said the names of the dead would be released after their families were informed.
Under the terms of a bilateral security pact, American soldiers are allowed to return fire in self-defence, and take part in operations if requested by their Iraqi counterparts.