BAGHDAD — One of the highest-ranking Iraqi army generals was killed Monday afternoon when his convoy came under attack in western Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Maj. Gen. Mubdar Hatim Hazya Al-Duleimi was commander of the 6th Iraqi Army Division, which in recent months has assumed independent control of large portions of Baghdad’s city center, including the areas surrounding the city’s International Zone and airport.

Mubdar was shot in the head when his armored vehicle slowed at a traffic intersection about 4:35 p.m. He was traveling from one of his brigade headquarters in western Baghdad to his division’s headquarters near the American bases at Baghdad International Airport. Mubdar was a Sunni who commanded an army division made up of mostly Shiites and the assassination may stem from the increased sectarian tension in the capital.

U.S. soldiers had applauded Mubdar for his even-handedness in integrating both sectarian groups into his units.

“He is a professional soldier,” Col. Gregory Watts, head of the military transition team that works with the 6th Iraqi Army Division, said in an interview several days before Mubdar’s death. “In the division headquarters, the division commander is just looking for competence and confidence in officers and soldiers regardless of their religious or tribal background.”

The killing came at a critical time for Mubdar’s division. During the past several months, the division has assumed operational control over four of its five brigades. The division often is cited as an example of successful transition of battle space from U.S. troops to the Iraqi army.

It is the latest in a string of killings of Iraqi army officers, many of them Sunnis. In January, a battalion commander who was also a Sunni known for working well with Shiites, was found murdered in the city of Mahmudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commander of the division of U.S. troops in Baghdad, lamented Mubdar’s death.

“General Mubdar was a true Iraqi patriot,” Thurman said in a written statement. “His loss will be felt by this command. He was my friend and a brother. His legacy will live on. He leaves behind a professional and capable fighting force that will continue the fight for Iraqi freedom.”

U.S. troops say the commander’s death will not disrupt the army’s daily operations and the progress made in recent months.

“These guys are moving forward, said Maj. Douglas Bunner, head of the military transition team that works with a brigade under Mubdar’s control.

“There is no loss that is going to make these guys move backward.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now