Wed, Feb 22, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Albanian soldier killed in Kandahar

TURNCOAT:Eleven suspects wearing Afghan police uniforms were arrested in the latest insider attack, threatening international commitment to Afghanistan

AP, KABUL

Gunmen in Afghan police uniforms opened fire on NATO troops on Monday in southern Afghanistan, killing an Albanian soldier, officials said.

A second Albanian and another international soldier were wounded, they said. Eleven suspected policemen were arrested.

The shooting appears to be the latest in a growing number of turncoat attacks that have raised questions about the vetting of Afghan recruits and threatened the international military commitment to Afghanistan.

Last month, France suspended its training program and threatened to withdraw its forces a year ahead of schedule after an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French soldiers on a base in eastern Afghanistan.

Monday’s shooting occurred in the village of Robat, in Kandahar Province’s Spin Boldak District, which borders Pakistan, Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq said.

The troops had gone there for a meeting about opening two schools and a health center, the Albanian defense ministry said.

The soldiers “found themselves attacked by a group of persons wearing uniforms of the Afghan police,” Brigadier General Viktor Berdo, the head of Albanian land forces, told reporters in the country’s capital, Tirana.

The attackers opened fire with five assault rifles and one light machine gun, the Albanian ministry said. One Albanian, a captain, died later in a hospital in Kandahar City. Albanian officials initially said a corporal was also killed, but later clarified that the soldier was in a coma, adding “there is still hope of improvement.”

Another international soldier was wounded, the ministry said, without providing a nationality.

The Albanian ministry said the remaining soldiers “arrested 11 Afghan policemen who opened fire.”

Albanian President Bamir Topi denounced the attack as a “grave terrorist act” and called for the punishment of those responsible.

It was the first time an Albanian solider has been killed in Afghanistan. Albania has 265 troops in the country.

There have been more than 45 of these insider attacks in Afghanistan since 2007, more than 75 percent of those in the last two years, according to Pentagon data.

Monday’s attack on NATO forces came after a suicide car bomber struck a police station in Kandahar City.

The attacker drove a Toyota Corolla up to the checkpoint outside of the Kandahar police station and detonated his explosives, Raziq said. One police officer was killed and four people were wounded in the explosion — two police officers and two civilians, he added.

A civilian compound nearby was also destroyed, according to a statement from the Kandahar government’s media office.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it fit the pattern of Taliban assaults, which usually focus on government installations or security forces.

Also on Monday, three Italian soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident in the west of the country.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano issued a condolence message expressing his “deep emotion” over the news of the deaths in Herat Province.

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