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Published: Monday, 5/11/2009

Obama shocked by shooting on Iraqi base


WASHINGTON President Obama said he is shocked and deeply saddened by news that a U.S. soldier opened fire at a counseling center, killing five fellow soldiers.

The president met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday afternoon to be briefed on the shooting at a sprawling U.S. base on the western edge of Baghdad and adjacent to a facility Obama visited last month.

I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news from Camp Victory this morning, and my heart goes out to the families and friends of all the service members involved in this horrible tragedy, Obama said in a statement.

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, he said.

It was unclear what provoked the shooting at a stress-counseling clinic. U.S. officials say the soldier is in custody but gave no further details.

At the Pentagon, Gates called the incident shocking. We re still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened, he said.

Gates said if as suspected one serviceman turned his gun on others, that would be a cause of high and great concern and would get the highest level of attention at the Defense Department.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, The tragedy occurred in a place where individuals were seeking help.

While Mullen said he did not have all the details on the shooting, he said it underscores the need for troops to spend more time at home between combat deployments.

It does speak to me about the need for us to redouble our efforts in terms of dealing with the stress, he said.

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