KABUL Two troops belonging to the U.S.-led military coalition were killed Saturday when an Afghan policeman turned his weapon on them in southern Afghanistan, NATO said.
The shooting deaths were the latest in a string of so-called "insider attacks" that have increasingly sown mistrust and strained the partnership between Afghan and Western forces battling the Taliban insurgency.
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The afternoon attack in southern Helmand province brought to 47 the number of international forces killed by their Afghan partners this year, most of them Americans. The province's deputy police chief, Ismail Hotak, identified the dead troops as British and said four other troops were wounded.
The Afghan shooter was killed by another soldier at the scene in the town of Gereshk, Hotak said. Since 2007, when the insider-attack phenomenon began, about 105 international troops have been killed by rogue Afghan security forces.
The perpetrator was believed to be a member of the 16,000-member Afghan Local Police, the smallest component of the 352,000-strong Afghan national forces. The police are based in towns and villages and act as a sort of militia, partnered with U.S. Special Forces.
The U.S. military recently suspended training of 1,000 new Afghan Local Police recruits and also has been revetting the existing ranks.
The shooting came on the same day that the Taliban asserted responsibility for an attack Friday night against a British base, Camp Bastion, also in Helmand province, that killed two U.S. Marines and wounded several other troops.
The NATO-backed International Security Assistance Force said nearly 20 insurgents, including suicide bombers, breached the base's perimeter. The attack "caused damage to multiple aircraft" and other base structures, the coalition said. It reported that all but one of the insurgents were killed.
The Taliban issued statements saying the assault was meant to avenge an anti-Muslim film that has sparked days of riots in more than 20 countries. But the militants also said the base attack was aimed at Prince Harry, a helicopter gunner who serves at Camp Bastion.
The prince, known as Capt. Harry Wales, was never in danger, the allied coalition said.
Last week the Afghan National Army said it had arrested or expelled hundreds of its soldiers because of deficient documentation and links to insurgents. Afghan officials said they have undertaken a massive rescreening process to weed infiltrators and potential turncoats from the ranks.
The U.S. exit plan from Afghanistan relies upon the Afghan forces taking responsibility for the country's security by the end of 2014. But the spate of insider attacks has raised serious, persistent questions about the loyalty of the Afghan forces to the U.S.-supported government as the war enters its 11th year.