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World & Nation

Afghan soldier fatally shoots three U.S. soldiers; 1 injured

An Afghan soldier mans a checkpoint in Jalalabad on June 10, 2017.
(Ghulamullah Habibi / EPA)

Three American service members were killed and another wounded Saturday when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, U.S. officials said.

A local Afghan official had said earlier Saturday that two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded during the attack in Achin district, where U.S. Army special operations forces have been fighting with Afghan military against Islamic State-affiliated militants. The death toll later rose to three, with one injured.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the wounded soldier had been evacuated for treatment and the incident was under investigation.

The so-called insider attack — the second of its kind this year — happened in Nangarhar, where Afghan troops and U.S. special operations forces have been locked in combat with an Islamic State-affiliated militant group for months.

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Ismail Shinwari, a district governor in Achin, said the incident happened in the Pekha Valley region of the Achin district. He said it was an active combat zone, keeping investigators from being able to go to the area.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the shooting involved a jihadist sympathizer, a personal dispute or a cultural misunderstanding. But the Afghan Taliban claimed that one of its members had infiltrated Afghan forces, opened fire on U.S. troops and killed four in Nangarhar province, according to private SITE Intelligence Group.

The shooter was killed immediately.

“The infiltrator was killed by other Afghan soldiers on the ground,” read a statement from the Taliban.

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In March, another Afghan soldier was killed after he fired on U.S. forces at a base in Helmand province, wounding three Americans.

Since 2008, there have been more than 90 insider attacks in Afghanistan, with at least 150 foreign soldiers killed and 187 wounded, according to the Long War Journal blog.

The deadly shooting comes as the Trump administration weighs deeper involvement in the country after 16 years of war.

The U.S. has 8,400 troops deployed in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan forces; most rarely participate in direct combat.

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Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, wants 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to help train Afghanistan’s military and police forces as they battle Taliban insurgents, Islamic State militants and other militias, U.S. officials say. The Afghan government in Kabul has come under growing pressure from the Taliban and other armed insurgents.

Six U.S. service members now have been killed in Afghanistan this year. The three soldiers killed earlier this year died fighting an Islamic State affiliate in Nangarhar. All were members of U.S. Army special operations.

In a separate incident, two Afghan border police officers were killed in a U.S. airstrike in southern Helmand province Friday night.

“An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the specific circumstances that led to this incident,” U.S. military officials said in a statement.

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The airstrike was part of an ongoing operation that was led by Afghan forces on the ground.

“Two were killed and three others wounded when the coalition air raid bombed an Afghan border police outpost,” said Omar Zwak, the Helmand governor’s spokesman said. “Several insurgents have also been killed during the same operations.”

Faizy is a special correspondent.

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UPDATES:

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2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with the death of the third U.S. soldier and other details.

This article was originally published at 11:45 a.m.


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