- Associated Press - Friday, February 18, 2011

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.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.

“It was very powerful, It shook Khost city,” he said about the blast.

The explosion, which occurred in a crowded area, damaged cars, houses and shops and sent a pillar of thick black smoke into the air.

“The blast was very large. It went off in the heart of the city near a police checkpoint,” 35-year-old Noorullah of Khost told The Associated Press. “There is broken glass in the residential areas around the bombing, Even people in their houses were injured by broken glass.”

Noorullah, who uses one name, said city residents were expressing fear and disappointment about the continuing violence.

“Continually we are facing this disaster,” he said, adding that he has little faith in the ability of the Afghangovernment’s peace council to reconcile with insurgents. “The government officials in Khost province — they are so scared. They cannot leave their offices, their compounds, to go out to talk to the people.”

Naqibullah Ehssas, a 27-year-old university instructor from Khost, said he noticed a suspicious vehicle behind him and narrowly escaped injury by driving in another direction.

“I was driving my vehicle and when I arrived near the bridge a suspicious vehicle was driving behind me,” he said. “When the police noticed the suspicious vehicle, then I got scared. Suddenly the people shouted ‘Suicide attacker!’”

Amir Pacha, director of hospitals in the province, gave the casualty toll, saying at least 30 people were wounded. NATO put the number of injuries at more than 40.

In December 2009, a suicide bomber, who was a double agent, killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. intelligence base in Khost.

Farther north, coalition troops patrolling in aircraft spotted a group they identified as armed insurgents and fired on them in Ghazi Abad district of Kunar province, kicking off a more than four-hour battle late Thursday that left more than 30 insurgents dead, the coalition said. After they opened fire, a large number of armed individuals emerged from a nearby building and they also were targeted and killed, NATO said.

A roadside bomb also killed a coalition service member in southern Afghanistan, NATO said, without providing a nationality.

The attacks raised to 18 the number of coalition troops who have died in Afghanistan so far this month.

Last year was the deadliest of the nearly decade-long war for international troops, with more than 700 killed, compared to just more than 500 in 2009. In January, 31 American and other NATO troops were killed.

Associated Press Writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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