A man in an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon on US trainers working with him in the country’s east on Saturday, killing three of them, while an attacker with a grenade killed an Italian soldier in the west, officials said.
The shooting in Paktika Province was the latest in a string of so-called “insider attacks” in which Afghan forces open fire on their own comrades or international troops. The incidents threaten to shake the confidence and trust of the two sides as next year’s withdrawal of most international forces approaches.
An argument between the Afghan soldier and his trainers appeared to have led to Saturday’s shooting on an Afghan National Army base in Paktika’s Kher Qot District, according to a statement from the Paktika Provincial Governor’s Office.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said two US service members and one US civilian died.
The angry Afghan soldier opened fire during the argument, killing the three foreign trainers and wounding three others, the governor’s statement said. The foreigners returned fire and killed the Afghan soldier, who had no known connection to the insurgency.
A second Afghan man was arrested after the shooting and an investigation has been launched, ISAF said later on Saturday.
In western Farah Province, an Italian soldier was killed and three others wounded in a grenade attack on their armored vehicle.
The Italian Ministry of Defense said the attack came as the Italian soldiers were returning to their base from training Afghan security forces. The Italian convoy of three armored vehicle apparently had been slowed by traffic when an attacker ran up and threw an explosive device into the lead vehicle, the ministry said. It added that the three wounded soldiers’ injuries were not life-threatening.
The Taliban quickly took responsibility for the attack, with spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claiming the attacker was an 11-year-old boy.
Yet Farah Provincial Government spokesman Abdul Rahman Zhawandai said an adult man was seen throwing a grenade, then escaping by blending into a crowd.
Saturday’s deaths brought to 15 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month. On Thursday, seven Georgian soldiers died in a bombing at their base.
So far this year, there have been five insider attacks on foreign forces, with a total of eight troops and one US contractor killed. However, the number of attacks has eased after last year, when at least 29 insider attacks killed 62 international troops.
The Taliban claim most of the insider attacks, saying it has infiltrated Afghan security forces or persuaded soldiers and police to join their side. However, ISAF has said many are sparked by personal disputes.
Countries in the NATO alliance met in Brussels this week to lay out a new plan for a training and assistance role, but did not agree on how many noncombat troops it will maintain after the withdrawal, most of which is set for this winter.
However, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle said during a surprise visit to Kabul on Saturday that Berlin is thinking about leaving 600 to 800 troops.
“The departure of our troops from Afghanistan will happen as planned, but at the same time we will not forget about Afghanistan in the years after 2014,” he said.