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Three U.S. troops killed in Afghan ‘insider attack’

Published: Updated:

An Afghan soldier shot dead three U.S. troops Saturday, officials said, in the latest “insider attack” to shake efforts by the two armies to work together to defeat Taliban militants.

Attacks in which Afghan forces turn their guns on their international partners have killed scores of U.S.-led troops, breeding mistrust and undermining efforts to train up local forces ahead of the NATO coalition’s withdrawal next year.

“Three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died when an individual wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform shot them in eastern Afghanistan today,” a statement from the coalition said.

A U.S. defense official confirmed to AFP that the three victims were from the United States.

An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the attack happened during a training session in the insurgency-hit province of Paktia.

The Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. soldiers, killing two on the spot, he said. A third later died of his wounds.

The attacker was killed when Americans and Afghan soldiers returned fire.

There have been seven “insider attacks” this year against coalition forces, compared with 48 in 2012. ISAF officials say the decline has been due to better vetting, counter-intelligence and cultural awareness.

Foreign soldiers working with Afghan forces are regularly watched over by so-called “guardian angel” troops to provide protection from their supposed allies.

ISAF officials say that most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than Taliban insurgent plots.

Afghan soldiers and police are taking on responsibility for battling the militants from 87,000 NATO combat troops who will leave by the end of 2014 - 13 years after a US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.

But the 350,000-strong security forces are suffering a steep rise in casualties as the NATO combat mission winds down and Afghan authorities try to bring stability ahead of April’s presidential election.

On Friday, Afghanistan’s interior ministry confirmed that 18 policemen had been killed in a Taliban ambush in the northeastern province of Badakhshan.