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February 25, 2012

Afghanistan Hunts for Suspect in Kabul Killings, Karzai Calls for Calm

Afghan authorities are hunting for an Afghan intelligence official suspected of killing two U.S. officers at close range inside a heavily guarded command center at the Interior Ministry in Kabul Saturday.  

Officials have identified the shooter as Abdul Saboor, a 25-year-old intelligence officer, who had studied in Pakistan.

The two U.S. military advisers were found dead on the floor of a locked office in the Interior Ministry that can only be accessed by people who know the combination to the lock.

The killing of the U.S. officers, a lieutenant colonel and a major, took place as Afghanistan was in the fifth straight day of protests across the country following the burning of Qurans by NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base on Tuesday. More than 30 people, including four U.S. military personnel, have died in violent protests since the Quran burning.

A NATO spokesman, Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, said, "The greatest concern is how the perpetrator could make it into the high security area, get so close to the personnel working there and actually do the killings."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai addressed the shooting at a news conference Sunday in Kabul. Mr. Karzai said it is not clear who did this or where he come from, or whether he was an Afghan or a foreigner, but the president is sorry for those who were killed and extends his condolences to their families.

The Afghan leader also called for calm, saying "now that we have shown our feelings, it is time to be calm and peaceful."

The incident took place on the fifth day of protests across the country following the burning of Qurans by NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base. More than 30 people, including four U.S. military personnel, have died in protests since the Quran burning.

On Sunday, one protester was killed and seven American soldiers wounded in a grenade attack at a U.S. base in northern Kunduz province on Sunday.

All international military personnel working in Afghan government offices were recalled Saturday after the shooting.  NATO said the decision to order the recall came "for obvious force protection reasons."  

The Afghan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the incident, and said the attack was retaliation for the burning of the Muslim holy book.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have apologized for the desecration of the Quran, but that has done little to quiet the outrage in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.