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'Afghan' Special Forces Member Guns Down 3 US Soldiers


FILE - Afghan special forces patrol in Pandola village near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, April 14, 2017.

Authorities in eastern Afghanistan say a uniformed member of Afghan Special Forces turned his gun on U.S. military personnel, killing three of them and wounding one other.

The incident happened Saturday in the volatile Achin district of Nangarhar province. A provincial government spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told VOA the assailant was instantly gunned down by American soldiers.

A Taliban spokesman said the gunman was one of its men who had infiltrated Afghan forces’ ranks.

Earlier reports had said two U.S. soldiers died and two were injured. Officials said President Donald Trump was informed about the Americans' deaths and was being kept up to date on all developments while on a weekend trip in New Jersey.

A senior international diplomat in Afghanistan said authorities are looking into the possibility that the killings in Nangarhar 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.

Saturday's attack against U.S. forces occurred after what appeared to be yet another "friendly fire" incident in Helmand, where the U.S. military confirmed that joint counter-Taliban operations overnight killed or wounded an unspecified number of Afghan security forces members.

Local media reports said airstrikes late Friday in the insurgent-held Nad Ali district killed at least eight local forces and wounded many more. Some reports said up to 20 Afghan personnel were killed.

A spokesman for the insurgents said the Afghan forces hit by airstrikes had “dressed like Taliban” and were in position in the Loe Bagh area, intending to ambush Taliban fighters, when jet planes “bombed and killed tens of them.”

The U.S. military's public affairs office in Kabul said an investigation was under way and gave a brief description of the incident: “During an ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] and U.S.-partnered operation, fire resulted in deaths and injuries to members of the Afghan Border Police.”

The U.S. military offered its deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest province, and most of it is under the control or influence of the Taliban. 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 Helmand in April to support struggling Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban.

The insurgents have extended their control over swaths of Afghanistan and killed scores of Afghan security forces members since launching their so-called yearly spring offensive in late April.

The wartorn nation -- and its capital city, Kabul, in particular -- has also been hit in recent weeks by suicide bombings that have caused unprecedented civilian casualties.

VOA White House Correspondent Peter Heinlein contributed to this report.