KABUL, Afghanistan — A man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire outside a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, wounding five U.S. soldiers, an Afghan police official said Wednesday.
The number of insider attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan has increased this year, undermining the trust between allies and efforts to prepare Afghan troops to take over their own security as international combat troops prepare to withdraw.
The U.S.-led coalition confirmed in a statement that a number of its service members were shot and wounded by a man in an Afghan army uniform Tuesday in Wardak province’s Sayed Abad district. It said Wednesday that the service members were being treated at a medical facility but did not provide details.
The coalition maintains a large base there, but NATO did not say where in the district the attack took place or what happened to the assailant. NATO did say that an investigation into the incident was under way.
Wardak provincial police chief Abdul Qayum Bakizoi said the wounded were five U.S. soldiers. He did not have further details.
A witness said Afghan civilians were talking to the soldiers outside their base when a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on them with a machine gun.
“The Americans were standing on the other side of us while we were standing with a translator. Suddenly the Afghan soldier aimed his machine gun on them and started shooting,” said Eman, who gave only one name.
He added that the wounded soldiers were evacuated by helicopter while the others “took us aside in fear of a possible gun battle.” Eman said the Afghan who opened fire escaped toward some trees and into a nearby village.
Wardak, near Kabul, is considered a Taliban hotbed and has been the scene of heavy fighting during the past year.
On last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a truck bomb outside the same coalition base wounded 77 American soldiers and killed five Afghan civilians.
Tuesday’s shooting was the latest likely case of what are being called green-on-blue attacks — in which Afghan soldiers or insurgents disguised in their uniforms turn their weapons on coalition troops.
So far this year, 26 coalition troops have been killed in 18 such attacks. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year.