Authorities in eastern Afghanistan say that a member of Afghan Special Forces turned his gun at U.S. military personnel, killing two of them and wounding two others.
The incident happened Saturday in the volatile Achin district, in Nangarhar province, and the assailant was instantly gunned down by American soldiers, provincial government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told VOA.
An American military spokesman contacted by VOA said U.S. military officials are “aware of an incident in eastern Afghanistan. We will release more information when appropriate.”
A Taliban spokesman instantly took credit for the latest so-called “insider attack,” saying the shooter was its member and had infiltrated Afghan forces’ ranks to carry out such an attack.
U.S. and Afghan commando forces are conducting counter-Islamic State operations in the rugged mountains of Achin, where loyalists of the Syria-based terrorist group has established bases.
A senior official at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirms the killing of the two U.S. commandos and the wounding of two others in Nangarhar province.
A senior international diplomat in Afghanistan says authorities are looking into the possibility that the killings might be related to the earlier deaths of two Afghan policemen in what the U.S. called a “friendly fire incident” in Helmand province. The U.S. has apologized for that incident.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the deaths of the two U.S. commandos while at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the weekend. A spokesman said Deputy National Security Adviser Rick Waddell is keeping Trump up to date on Afghanistan and national security matters. The aide said Trump is being advised on the “emerging situation”
Insider attacks have occurred before in Afghanistan. In March, another Afghan soldier shot and wounded three U.S. soldiers in the Helmand province before he was killed.
Afghan security force members killed
The insider attack in Nangarhar province happened hours after the U.S. military confirmed that overnight joint counter-Taliban operations in the embattled southern province of Helmand have killed and wounded members of Afghan security forces, but gave no casualty toll.
The confirmation followed local media reports that said airstrikes conducted late Friday in the insurgent-held Nad Ali district killed at least eight local forces and wounded many more. Some reports have put the number of dead Afghan personnel at about 20.
An investigation is underway to determine circumstances that led to the “unfortunate” incident,” said the American military’s public affairs office in Kabul.
“During an ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] and U.S. partnered operation, fires resulted in the deaths and injuries to members of the Afghan Border Police,” it noted.
The U.S. military would like to express its “deepest” condolences to the families of the victims, the statement said.
A spokesman for the Islamist insurgency claimed Afghan forces “dressed like Taliban” had taken up positions in the Loe Bagh area of the district to ambush Taliban insurgents when jet planes “bombed and killed tens of them.”
Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest province and most of it is under the control or influence of the Taliban.
Lashkar Gah province
The district where Friday night’s airstrikes took place is located on the edge of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.
A group of roughly 300 U.S. Marines arrived in the embattled province in April to support struggling Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban.
The Taliban has extended its control and influence to swathes of Afghanistan and intensified battlefield attacks across the country since launching its so-called yearly spring offensive in late April, killing scores of Afghan security forces.
The war-torn nation, and particularly its capital city of Kabul, has also witnessed an uptick in deadly suicide bombings in recent weeks, causing unprecedented civilian casualties.
VOA White House Correspondent Peter Heinlein and Wayne Lee contributed to this report.