Afghan soldier kills US service member at army base

Afghan soldier kills US service member at army base

* 2009 proves to be bloodiest year for international troops

HERAT: An Afghan soldier killed a US service member and wounded two Italian soldiers when he opened fire on foreign troops at an army base in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, said a senior Afghan army officer.

The shooting is the latest in a string of such incidents, at a time when Western countries are pouring resources into training Afghan soldiers and police to fight the Taliban insurgency. “The soldier opened fire on the two Italians and one American in a joint Afghan and foreign base,” a senior officer, General Khair Mohammad Khawari told Reuters.

“Two Italian soldiers were wounded and one American soldier was killed,” Khawari said. “The assailant comes from an area north of the Afghan capital Kabul and is thought to have mental health problems”, said Khawari.

A spokesman for NATO-led forces said a US service member had died following a shooting incident in western Afghanistan. Foreign and Afghan forces were investigating the incident, he said, but declined to give further details. Italian Defence Ministry officials said the attack, which was deliberate and not a case of friendly fire, occurred during a routine supply operation.

One Italian was lightly wounded in the thigh and the other in the hand and leg but both have returned to their duties. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest levels in the eight-year war and 2009 has been the bloodiest year for foreign troops. More than twice as many Americans have died in Afghanistan this year than in 2008.

Attacks by Afghan soldiers on their foreign mentors highlight the sometimes testy relations between the two and have prompted public debate in the West about the war and concern over the safety of troops embroiled in an increasingly unpopular conflict. Four US troops were killed and three wounded by Afghan soldiers in two other incidents earlier this year, one in the northeast and one just south of Kabul.