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Afghan policeman shoots, kills 2 US troops

Helicopter crash leaves 5 more Americans dead

In a shooting near Kabul, police gathered the body of a man after his truck reportedly did not stop near a US convoy.

Ali Hamed Haghdoust /Associated Press

In a shooting near Kabul, police gathered the body of a man after his truck reportedly did not stop near a US convoy.

KABUL — An Afghan police officer opened fire Monday on a gathering of American and Afghan military and police operatives in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least two members of the US special operations forces and five Afghan troops and police, officials said.

The assault, one of the deadliest of ‘‘insider attacks’’ this year, occurred in Wardak Province during a meeting between US and Afghan troops ahead of a joint mission, according to US and Afghan officials.

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Also Monday, five American service members were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. A statement issued Tuesday from the NATO military coalition said the helicopter crashed Monday in an area where there was no enemy activity. The cause of the crash is under investigation. A US official said all of the dead were American. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been formally released.

In Wardak Province, the attacker seized a machine gun in the back of a police pickup truck and opened fire on the forces in a police compound, according to a senior Afghan military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

It was unclear whether the gunman was a Taliban recruit or acting out of personal enmity. The attacker was reportedly killed in the ensuing firefight.

A US defense official in Washington and a coalition official in Afghanistan said 10 Americans — both special operations forces and regular soldiers who worked as a team — and at least 12 Afghans were wounded in the attack.

Investigators had not determined whether the assailant was targeting the Afghan police along with the US special operations forces or whether they were killed by the assailant’s bullets or during the crossfire.

The attack came a day after President Hamid Karzai accused the American military of colluding with the Taliban to justify a continued US presence in the country.

Karzai’s comment that ‘‘the Taliban are serving the foreigners’’ complicated an already tense weekend visit from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose trip was marred by the Afghan president’s decision to call off a key prison handover from US to Afghan forces and the cancellation of a joint news conference. The news conference was called off at US insistence, ostensibly due to security concerns.

Monday’s attack could further threaten the fragile relationship between the two nations. US officials have long advocated the small-footprint approach exemplified by teams of special operations forces as a way forward during the American military withdrawal, but Karzai has been critical of those teams, particularly in Wardak.

Responding to complaints from civilians, Karzai last month expelled US special operations forces from Wardak, accusing them of ‘‘harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people.’’

The American troops were due to leave Wardak Province on Sunday, according to a presidential decree. It was unclear why they were still operating there Monday, but one Afghan official said the two sides were working on a compromise.

Monday’s attack occurred in the Jalrez district of Wardak, a volatile part of the province from which US troops had almost entirely withdrawn.

In a separate incident Monday, US troops fired on a truck approaching their military convoy outside Kabul, killing two Afghan men inside, the Associated Press reported.

US forces spokesman Jamie Graybeal said the Afghan driver failed to heed instructions to stop as his truck came close to the American convoy near Kabul.

‘‘The convoy took appropriate measures to protect themselves and engaged the vehicle,’’ Graybeal said, adding that an assessment is underway.

The two dead men were employees of a company that repairs police vehicles, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi. Another man was wounded in the shooting, said Colonel Mohammad Alim, the police commander overseeing Kabul highways. Soldiers reportedly ordered the approaching truck to stop but did not use a laser warning device to signal the truck.

On Sunday, Karzai said in a speech that Americans want to scare Afghans into allowing them to stay in the country beyond the end of 2014.

That assertion brought a sharp rebuke from the US ambassador Monday, as news of the insider attack in Wardak emerged.

‘‘The thought that we would collude with the Taliban flies in the face of everything we have done here and is absolutely without foundation,’’ Ambassador James Cunningham said in a statement.

The Wardak shooting is the third insider attack this year.

The pace of incidents is much slower than in 2012, when coalition troops were hit with 46 insider attacks that killed 64 coalition troops and wounded 95, according to a senior coalition officer.

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