A U.S. soldier in Iraq fired on his own troops Monday, killing five people in what Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as “a great and urgent cause for concern.”
Initially, reports surfaced that the shooter had been killed in the attack, but U.S. military officials said last night that the suspect, Sgt. John Russell, had been a patient at a stress clinic, was in custody. Russell is charged with five counts of murder and aggravated assault. A senior military official told The Associated Press that it is unclear whether those killed are workers at the clinic or were there for counseling. Whether the deceased are members of the military is also undetermined, he said.
"We are still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened," Gates said. "But if the preliminary reports are confirmed, such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause for great and urgent concern. And I can assure you that it will get this department's highest priority attention."
When word of the tragedy reached the White House, President Obama expressed shock and sadness.
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this terrible tragedy," he said in a statement. “…[M]y heart goes out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this horrible tragedy. I will press to ensure that we fully understand what led to this tragedy, and that we are doing everything we can to ensure that our men and women in uniform are protected as they serve our country so capably and courageously in harm's way."
The clinic where the shootings took place is designed for troops who are experiencing the stresses of combat and their personal lives.