Two international soldiers killed by Afghan in uniform
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two international soldiers were slain in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday by a gunman in an Afghan police uniform, the NATO-led military coalition said.
The attack had the hallmarks of a series of insider attacks, in which Afghan security forces have turned their guns on their international partners. At least 53 troops have been slain in such attacks this year, according to the NATO-led alliance.
Tuesday’s attack was still under investigation and the slain soldiers’ nationalities were not immediately disclosed. But Afghan officials and the Taliban said the attack occurred in Helmand province, a front line in the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban-led Pashtun insurgency.
[Updated at 12:40 p.m. Oct. 30: The two slain soldiers were later identified by the British Defense Ministry as members of the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment. A spokesman declined to disclose whether the soldiers were British or Nepalese nationals. The regiment is staffed by Nepalese and commanded by British officers.]
The Taliban described the fighter in a statement as “an infiltrating soldier” who opened fire on British troops in Helmand province. The militants put the number of dead at three.
Local officials, who asked not to be identified, cast doubt on the Taliban account. They said foreign troops had been on patrol in Helmand’s Greshk district when a fighter in a police uniform ambushed them. They denied the assailant was a member of the Afghan forces. Insider attacks have injected severe tensions between the NATO-led troops and the Afghan police and army. International forces are meant to train and help strengthen Afghan forces so they can fully take over security for the country by the end of 2014. But the interactions are tenser now.
Coalition forces concede some of the insider attacks stem from misunderstandings and resentment on the part of Afghan soldiers for their Western counterparts. Some NATO-led troops have even tried to put swearing by foreign troops into context for Afghan forces, who may have taken offense at language used in front of them or directed toward them.
-- Ned Parker