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Insider attack kills 2 U.S. troops, 5 Afghans

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan police officer opened fire Monday on a gathering of Americans and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least two members of the U.S. special operations forces and five Afghan troops and police officers, officials said.

The assault, one of the deadliest insider attacks this year, occurred in Wardak province just outside the Afghan capital during a meeting between U.S. and Afghan troops ahead of a joint mission, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The attacker seized a machine gun in the back of a police pickup truck and opened fire on the U.S. and Afghan forces in a police compound, according to a senior Afghan military official who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the incident. It was unclear whether the gunman was a Taliban recruit or acting out of personal enmity. The attacker was reported killed in the ensuing firefight.

In addition to the men killed, about a dozen U.S. and Afghan troops were injured, including the district police chief, officials said.

The Wardak shooting is the third insider attack this year and came a day after President Hamid Karzai accused the U.S. military of colluding with the Taliban to justify a continued U.S. presence in the country.

Karzai's comment that "the Taliban are serving the foreigners" complicated an already tense weekend visit from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose trip was marred by the Afghan president's decision to call off a key prison handover from U.S. to Afghan forces and the cancellation of a joint news conference. The news conference was called off at the United States' insistence, ostensibly due to security concerns.

Monday's attack could further threaten the fragile relationship between the two nations. Responding to complaints from civilians, Karzai last month expelled U.S. special operations forces from Wardak, accusing them of "harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people."

The troops were due to leave the province Sunday, according to a presidential decree. It was unclear why they were still operating there Monday, but one Afghan official said the two sides were working on a compromise.

An Afghan policeman mans a checkpoint Sunday in the Wardak province of Afghanistan. The two U.S. troops killed in Monday’s attack were due to leave the province Sunday.

Associated Press

An Afghan policeman mans a checkpoint Sunday in the Wardak province of Afghanistan. The two U.S. troops killed in Monday’s attack were due to leave the province Sunday.

Visit to military hospital canceled

On his way home from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, above, had planned to stop Monday at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the U.S.-run hospital in Germany where thousands of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated. But the visit was canceled when his staff learned no Americans were being treated for combat wounds there now, an official said. Only three U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan have been killed in combat this year, and about 60 have been wounded.

Los Angeles Times

Insider attack kills 2 U.S. troops, 5 Afghans 03/11/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:11am]
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