By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 9 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An armed confrontation between two Iraqi army units left one soldier and one civilian dead Friday, raising questions about the U.S.-trained force's ability to maintain control at a time when sectarian and ethnic tensions are running high.
The incident near Duluiyah, about 45 miles north of Baghdad, illustrates the command and control problems facing the new Iraqi army, which the Americans hope can take over security in most of the country by the end of the year. It also shows that divisions within the military mirror those of Iraqi society at large.
The trouble started when a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army convoy, which police said was made up of Kurdish soldiers. Four soldiers were killed and three were wounded, police said. U.S. military officials put the casualty figure at one dead and 12 wounded.
The wounded were rushed to the civilian Balad Hospital. Police said that as the Kurdish soldiers drove to the hospital, they fired weapons to clear the way, and one Iraqi Shiite civilian was killed.
Shiite soldiers from another Iraqi unit based in Balad rushed to the scene, and the Kurds decided to take their wounded elsewhere, Iraqi police said. Iraqi troops tried to stop them and shots were fired, killing one Shiite soldier, Iraqi police said.
The U.S. account said an Iraqi soldier from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade was killed in a "confrontation" as the other Iraqi troops were trying to remove their wounded from the hospital.
A third Iraqi army unit set up a roadblock in the area and stopped the soldiers who were leaving with their wounded, the U.S. statement said. American troops intervened at the roadblock and calmed the situation.
The U.S. said the Iraqi army was investigating the incident.
Thousands of Kurdish peshmerga militiamen were integrated into the Iraqi army and provide security in areas with large Kurdish populations, some of which are located near Shiite and Sunni Arab communities.
IraqShiites, who comprise an estimated 40 percent of Iraq's 27 million people, dominate the ranks of the army. Efforts are under way to recruit more Sunni Arabs, especially for duty in Sunni areas of western Iraq.
Sunni community leaders complain that the presence of Shiite soldiers fuels resentment of the government, which is trying to lure Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency.
The effort to reach out to the Sunnis is taking place against a backdrop of sharp tensions between the two Muslim sects, fueled by tit-for-tat assassinations, many of them blamed on militias.
In Basra, gunmen killed a Sunni Arab cleric and his son as they left a Friday prayer service — the second assassination in three days of Sunni leaders in the predominantly Shiite south.