Official: U.S. soldier kills 5 at Camp Liberty

(MILITARY TIMES)   BAGHDAD — A U.S. soldier opened fire at a counseling center on a U.S. base Monday, killing five fellow soldiers before being taken into custody, the U.S. command and Pentagon officials said.

The shooting occurred at Camp Liberty, a sprawling U.S. base on the western edge of Baghdad near the city’s international airport and adjacent to another facility where President Barack Obama visited last month.

A brief U.S. statement said the soldier “suspected of being involved with the shooting” was in custody but gave no further details. Nobody else was hurt, the military said. It was unclear what provoked the shooting.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said the shooting happened at a stress clinic, where troops can go for help with the stresses of combat or personal issues. It was unclear whether those killed were workers at the clinic or were there for counseling. No details were released about the gunman.

“Anytime we lose one of our own, it affects us all,” U.S. spokesman Col. John Robinson said. “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this terrible tragedy.”

During a press briefing Monday afternoon at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his “horror and deep regret” over the shooting, adding that officials are still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened.

“Such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause of great and urgent concern,” he said.

When asked if the suspected gunman had been deployed multiple times, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not have that information. However, he said, the tragedy occurred while service members were seeking help.

“It does speak to me for the need for us to redouble our efforts in terms of dealing with the stress [of combat],” Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issues of multiple deployments [and] increasing dwell time.”

Separately, the military announced Monday that a U.S. soldier was also killed a day earlier when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Basra province of southern Baghdad.

The death toll from the Monday shooting was the highest for U.S. personnel in a single attack since April 10, when a suicide truck driver killed five American soldiers with a blast near a police headquarters in Mosul.

Attacks on officers and sergeants, known as fraggings, were not uncommon during the Vietnam War as morale in the ranks sank.

There have been several previous fragging incidents in the Iraq war.

— In September, Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis was detained after allegedly killing two members of his unit south of Baghdad. The case remains under investigation.

• In April 2005, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar was sentenced to death for killing two officers in Kuwait just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

• In June 2005, an Army captain and lieutenant were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated in the window of their room at the U.S. base in Tikrit. National Guard Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was acquitted in the blast.

• Spc. Chris Rolan, an Army medic, was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2007 for killing a fellow soldier after a night of heavy drinking in Iraq.

• In 2008, Army Cpl. Timothy Ayers was sentenced to two years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the fatal 2007 shooting of his platoon sergeant in Iraq.

Additionally, there have been several incidents recently when gunmen dressed as Iraqi soldiers have opened fire on American troops, including an attack may 2 in the northern city of Mosul when two soldiers and the gunman were killed.

Rep. Harry Mitchell, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the Camp Liberty shooting underscores the “critical need” to reach out to soldiers suffering from “the effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“Many troops are under great psychological strain and are not receiving the treatment they need,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and head of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Much more must be done to address troops’ psychological injuries before they reach a crisis point.”

http://militarytimes.com/news/2009/05/ap_casualties_iraq_051109/

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