KABUL, Afghanistan - Two more US soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan yesterday when an Afghan soldier, apparently in league with a civilian, killed a tower guard and attacked barracks with gunfire and a rocket, officials said.
Four US soldiers were shot dead last week, including two at the Afghan Interior Ministry, after burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base set off protests across Afghanistan.
Yesterday’s attack took place at a joint Afghan-NATO base in the Zhari District in Kandahar Province. Four other Americans were wounded in the attack, which began around 2:30 a.m. local time.
The two men who mounted the attack fled afterward, but US personnel called in helicopters to pursue them. Masoom Khan, the district chief of police, said the two men were killed by helicopter gunfire more than a mile from the scene of the attack.
The base is close to the village of Sangsar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the hometown of its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Khan said the attackers were suspected of having links to the insurgency.
He said the Afghan soldier involved in the attack was a platoon leader who had taken part in joint patrols with Americans. The civilian was an Afghan literacy instructor at the base.
“We believe that both of the attackers had links with the Taliban,’’ he said.
NATO issued a statement about the attack that did not give the victims’ nationalities. “Two individuals, one believed to be an Afghan National Army service member and the other in civilian clothing, turned their weapons indiscriminately against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two ISAF service members,’’ the statement read.
The deaths of two Americans at the Afghan Interior Ministry Saturday prompted NATO to immediately withdraw hundreds of military advisers and trainers from government ministries in Kabul. Yesterday, a NATO spokesman, Brigadier General Lewis Boone, said some of the advisers were returning to the ministries, but he did not specify which offices were involved.
Three investigations are underway into the Koran burning last week at Bagram Air Base. Protests of the burning continued for days and took at least 29 Afghan lives, in addition to those of the US soldiers.
One of the investigations is being mounted by Americans, one by Afghans, and the third is a joint inquiry. The formal US military investigation is the only one that can lead to punishment; the others can offer recommendations, but carry no formal legal weight.