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Gunman kills 2 U.S. advisers in Afghan ministry
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A gunman killed two American military advisers inside a heavily guarded government building in the heart of Kabul Saturday as protests over the burning of the Muslim holy book at a U.S. base raged across the country for a fifth day.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for the Koran burnings, and the NATO commander recalled all international military personnel working in Afghan ministries in the capital.
The two advisers, including a lieutenant colonel and a major, were shot in the back of the head, according to Western officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.
U.S. officials said the assailant — who has not been identified by name or nationality — remained at large and a manhunt was under way.
Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak called U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to apologize for the shooting and offer his condolences, Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.
“This act is unacceptable and the United States condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” Little said.
Little said that Wardak indicated that President Hamid Karzai was assembling religious leaders, parliamentarians, Supreme Court justices and other senior Afghan officials to take urgent steps to protect coalition forces. Little also said U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, met with Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, who offered both his condolences to the families of the victims and his apologies.
“The United States remains dedicated to working with the Afghan people against the common threat of violent extremism and to build an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself,” Little said.
An apology from President Barack Obama has failed to quell public outrage over what NATO insisted was an accidental desecration of the Koran. At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Tuesday, when it first emerged that Qurans and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large U.S. base north of Kabul.
Among those dead were two U.S. soldiers who were killed Thursday by one of their Afghan counterparts while a riot raged outside their base in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
He said NATO is investigating Saturday’s shooting and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for the attack.
“The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered,” Allen said.
NATO forces have advisers embedded in many Afghan ministries, both as trainers and to help manage the transition to Afghan control and foreign forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014. The Afghan Interior Ministry oversees all of the country’s police, so has numerous NATO advisers.
Two Afghan officials said the ministry shooting did not involve any Afghans. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a NATO incident. One of the officials noted that the shooting occurred inside a secure room at the ministry that Afghan staff do not have access to.
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