KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on German troops working on a vehicle in northern Afghanistan Friday, killing two soldiers and wounding at least eight others, officials said.
It was not known whether the attacker was an Afghan soldier or simply disguised as one, but the shooting highlighted the challenges facing efforts to rapidly train government troops to take over their own security so that foreign forces can go home. The Afghans added more than 70,000 police and soldiers last year and the force is now 270,000-strong.
“We are not sure if this was actually an Afghan National Army soldier, or just a criminal, a terrorist, wearing a uniform,” German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a spokesman for the NATO coalition in Kabul, said.
He said the shooting occurred outside a coalition compound on a roadside where the German soldiers were fixing a vehicle. According to Blotz, about four of the German soldiers injured were severely hurt.
The shooting occurred before noon in the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri. Coalition troops returned fire, critically injuring the shooter, NATO said in a statement. It did not provide more details.
The German military confirmed that one soldier had been killed and at least eight others wounded when a man opened fire on an outpost manned by the German army, known as the Bundeswehr, according to the German news agency DAPD. It said the injured were evacuated by helicopter for emergency medical treatment.
Later, NATO released a statement saying a second coalition service member had died in the incident, but did not disclose the nationality.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the attack a “nefarious act of terrorism.”
Germany currently has 5,030 troops in Afghanistan. In all, 46 German troops have died since the war started in 2001 — not all in combat.
While information about the shooter is not yet known, there have been incidents in the past of Afghan police and soldiers turning on their NATO comrades, raising concerns about infiltration.
On Nov. 29, 2010, six U.S. soldiers were killed by a rogue Afghan border policeman who opened fire on his American trainers as the group headed to shooting practice. The gunman was killed in the shootout in Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the officer had enlisted as a sleeper agent to have an opportunity to kill foreigners.
On July, 13, 2010, an Afghan soldier killed three British service members with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade. The soldier fled the base after carrying out the attack in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed that he was a militant sympathizer who was taken in by insurgents after the assault.
In November 2009, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province.
Friday’s shooting was one of several deadly incidents reported across Afghanistan, which is expecting an escalation of violence as winter fades to spring.
A suicide car bomber struck a police station in the eastern Afghan city of Khost, along the border with Pakistan, killing 11 people — one Afghan policeman and 10 civilians — and wounding 41, according to Mobarez Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.