A man in an Afghan army uniform shot and killed a NATO service member on Saturday, and the Taliban said the assailant was a sleeper agent who had infiltrated the Afghan military.
Cases of foreign troops being attacked by rogue policemen and soldiers — or militants impersonating them — are on the rise as international forces are increasingly partnered with Afghan troops preparing to take the lead in security by the end of 2014.
The shooting was part of a spate of weekend attacks that killed at least nine people, including two other foreign troops. The nationalities of the slain foreign soldiers were not released.
Saturday’s shooting attack by the Afghan soldier took place at a military compound in Helmand Province that was occupied by both Afghan and coalition troops, an Afghan military official in the area said. He said the NATO service member was killed in his quarters and that the shooter got away before the victim’s body was discovered.
“This was our person,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said in a text message. “Now he is with us.”
The spokesman claimed that the gunman killed a total of five NATO service members. However, the US-led coalition reported the death of only one.
Rasool Safi, a spokesman for the Afghan National Army Corps 215 in Helmand Province, said he did not know whether the shooter was an enlisted solider.
Insurgents have often worn uniforms of Afghan security forces to get inside heavily guarded military bases and target international and government forces. Enlisted Afghan soldiers and police also have turned on their NATO and Afghan colleagues — sometimes because arguments have inflamed tensions or because of an alliance or sympathy with the Taliban.
In May, two US service members were killed by an Afghan policeman in Helmand Province. The two were mentoring an Afghan National Civil Order brigade and were shot and killed inside the police compound as they sat down to eat lunch.
Since March 2009, at least 40 coalition troops have been killed in more than 20 shootings by members of the Afghan security forces or assailants wearing Afghan uniforms.
In about half the cases, attackers impersonated Afghan policemen or soldiers, coalition officials have said. Afghan security force uniforms are easily obtained at stores in the capital of Kabul, despite efforts to crack down on such illegal sales. About 10 of the shootings were attributed to combat stress or unknown reasons.
It is not known how many members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in such attacks. In April, a man in an Afghan army uniform penetrated to the heart of the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul and gunned down two Afghan soldiers.
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