Afghan police recruit kills 2 Spanish officers, interpreter in latest infiltration attack

By Christopher Bodeen, AP
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Afghan police recruit kills 2 Spanish officers

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan police recruit opened fire on Spanish trainers early Wednesday, killing two of them along with their interpreter, Spain’s Interior Minister said.

The recruit was subsequently shot and killed by Spanish officers who had been conducting a police training course at their base in Badghis province, Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

The officers were members of a paramilitary unit that falls under the command of Spain’s Defense Ministry, whose spokesman in Madrid said the motive for the attack was unknown.

Afghan officials also reported the death of an Afghan police officer in an exchange with Spanish police in Badghis’ Qalay-I-Naw district, but said they were still investigating the incident. Afghan officials had initially said the exchange of fire involved Spanish soldiers.

Majid Khan Shkib, a member of the provincial council, said there were suspicions that Taliban fighters active in the remote area had infiltrated the local police force — an increasingly common tactic among the insurgents.

Following the officer’s shooting, hundreds of area residents gathered at the gate to the Spanish camp, chanting and throwing stones before moving on to the provincial government offices, the Afghan officials said.

The international security force said it had been told of the incident and was investigating.

Intentional shootings by Afghans against coalition partners have occurred previously but still are rare.

Two American civilians and two Afghan soldiers were killed last month when an Afghan soldier who trained others at a base outside the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif started shooting during a weapons exercise

Earlier this month, an Afghan soldier killed three British service members with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the dead of night.

The soldier fled after that attack, leaving his motive unclear. But the Taliban claimed that he was a militant sympathizer taken in by insurgents after the assault.

In April, a U.S. army trainer was killed by a suicide bomber who gained entry to the Afghan base after stealing an Afghan army uniform, while last November, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand.

The attacks come as the international coalition is accelerating training of Afghan soldiers and policemen so they can ultimately take responsibility for securing and defending the nation.

The speed with which Afghan security forces are growing has raised concerns about infiltration by the Taliban and the overall professionalism of the forces. The Afghan National Army has reached its goal of recruiting 134,000 soldiers, while the Afghan police have over 104,000 officers serving in uniform.

Also on Wednesday, Australia said one of its soldiers was among two international troops killed in fighting Tuesday in the volatile south. The other casualty was an American.

A total of 49 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this month, including 31 Americans, according to a count by The Associated Press. Australia, which has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, has lost a total of 21 soldiers over the years of fighting in the country.

With about 90 percent of an additional 40,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan — bringing the total to about 120,000 — the coalition has considerably ramped up pressure on the Taliban.

It said more than 2,800 operations had been launched over the past 90 days, resulting in the death or capture of more than 365 insurgent leaders and 2,386 ordinary fighters.

Operations were up 83 percent in July from the same month last year, NATO said. July 2010 was the deadliest month for U.S. troops the 2001 invasion, with 66 killed.

Afghan and international forces have killed an estimated 40 Taliban fighters east of the Afghan capital since Friday as part of operations to provide security ahead of parliamentary elections next month, NATO said.

Associated Press Writers Daniel Woolls in Madrid and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

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