KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan soldier opened fire at a group of U.S. troops in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing an American soldier and wounding at least two others before he was shot dead, a U.S. official said.
The incident happened after a meeting between Afghan provincial leaders and a U.S. Embassy official in the compound of the provincial governor in Jalalabad. All U.S. Embassy staff were accounted for and returned safely to their mission headquarters, the embassy said.
NATO confirmed that one of its soldiers died in the attack, without providing the nationality of the slain soldier, as is the coalition’s policy. The Washington official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak before the official announcement was released.
It was the second fatality suffered by NATO since the beginning of the year, when the coalition launched its new mission in Afghanistan called Resolute Support. Also, an Afghan soldier killed three American contractors on January 29. The shooter was also killed in that incident.
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Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, who is police chief for eastern Nangarhar province where the shooting happened, said it took place immediately after the meeting in the governor’s compound and the embassy official had left.
“Right after the U.S. official had left, suddenly an Afghan army soldier opened fire on the U.S. soldiers who were present in the compound,” Sherzad told The Associated Press.
The American troops returned fire, killing the Afghan soldier, whom Sherzad identified as Abdul Azim, from Laghman province.
The motive for his attack was not immediately known and no group claimed responsibility for the assault. In 2014, there were at least four insider attacks in Afghanistan – instances when Afghan soldiers or policemen have turned their weapons on their fellow American or other NATO colleagues. Also, in past attacks, Taliban insurgents have been known to wear Afghan police or military uniforms to stage attacks on the international troops.
The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan P. Michael McKinley was not present at the time of the incident, said Sherzad.
Information was sketchy and an eyewitness told the AP that four U.S. troops had been wounded in the attack – not three as Sherzad said – and were being treated at a clinic on the American base in Jalalabad.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, referring to the U.S.-led coalition, said: “We are aware that there was an exchange of gunfire involving Resolute Support service members near the provincial governor’s compound in Jalalabad.
“The incident took place after a senior U.S. official held a meeting with the provincial governor. All Chief of Mission personnel of the visiting party are accounted for,” spokeswoman Monica Cummings said.
Noman Atefi, the spokesman for the Afghan National Army’s eastern corps command, said one Afghan soldier had been killed and two others wounded in the shootout. It was not immediately clear if the fatality he was referring to among the Afghans was the shooter.
Earlier, an Afghan official said two people were killed and three wounded in an ambush late Tuesday aimed at police in eastern Kunar province, where the Taliban have a strong presence.
Farid Dhekhan, the spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the attack, which occurred in Narang district, targeted a police vehicle, which escaped unharmed. The dead were a man and woman from the same family, Dhekhan said, speaking on Wednesday.
Kunar is on the eastern border with Pakistan and has long been an insurgent stronghold.
The Western-backed Afghan government’s nearly 13-year war against the insurgents has intensified as both sides seek to strengthen their positions ahead of possible peace talks.