By DION NISSENBAUM And ZIAULHAQ SULTANI, KABUL, Afghanistan (ASJ): An Afghan soldier opened fire on Western forces Monday in southern Afghanistan, killing two British soldiers at the gate of their base in the capital of Helmand province, Afghan and coalition officials said.
Such attacks by Afghan service members on Western troops have become the second leading cause of hostile deaths for coalition forces this year, after insurgent improvised explosive devices. More coalition service members have been gunned down by Afghan troops than by insurgents since the year began.
A total of 14 members of the U.S.-led coalition were killed this year in seven such “green on blue” incidents, representing nearly one-third of the 47 coalition fatalities caused by hostile action. Since May 2007, more than 80 members of the coalition have been killed in such attacks, according to the coalition training mission in Afghanistan.
While the U.S.-led military released no details of the latest incident, Afghan officials identified the attacker as Gul Aziz, a resident of eastern Afghanistan who had been serving with the Afghan National Army for four years.
Brig. Gen. Ghulam Farooq Parwani, deputy commander of the ANA’s Helmand-based 215th Corps, said the soldier stormed the gate of the Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters in Lashkar Gah as Afghan laborers were coming out.
The soldier killed two British soldiers at the gate and wounded a third before being gunned down by coalition forces at the base. Helmand’s capital was one of the first areas to be turned over to Afghan forces last year as part of a plan to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan troops across the country by 2014.
Gen. Parwani said they could find no immediate links between the attacker and the insurgency. A Taliban spokesman said he was trying to determine if the attacker was connected to the insurgent movement.
Such attacks have created increasing concern within the U.S.-led military, which is relying on the expanding Afghan security force to assume greater responsibility for protecting the country from the Taliban-led insurgency as the coalition prepares to end major combat operations as soon as next year.
While such incidents have been a concern for years, the problem escalated dramatically last month after American soldiers mistakenly burned Qurans at a military base outside Kabul in an errant attempt to get rid of books they said contained secret notes shared between prisoners. The incident sparked a deadly backlash.
Since then, six Americans have been killed by Afghan forces, including two U.S. officers shot dead inside a secure office at the Afghan Interior Ministry headquarters in Kabul.
Tensions were compounded two weeks ago in southern Afghanistan when at least 16 Afghans—most of them women and children—were killed during a late-night rampage in rural Kandahar province. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was quickly detained and has been charged in a military court with 17 counts of murder.
Three days later, an Afghan civilian working at the main British base in neighboring Helmand province stole a pickup truck and tried to ram a delegation of senior military commanders waiting to greet U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who had just landed at the base. The driver, who has set himself on fire, later died of his burns, U.S. officials said.
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