KABUL: A man dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire Tuesday on NATO troops at a military base, killing a U.S. two-star general and wounding some 15 people, among them a German brigadier general and a number of Americans troops, authorities said.
The attack at Camp Qargha, a base west of the capital, Kabul, killed the highest-ranking U.S. officer of the nearly 13-year war and comes as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the year’s end. While details remained murky about what sparked the attack, it showed the challenges still remaining in Afghanistan, a nation that’s known three decades of war without end.
Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry, said a “terrorist in an army uniform” opened fire on both local and international troops. Azimi said the shooter had been killed and that three Afghan army officers were wounded. He did not offer a motive for the assault.
U.S. officials identified the dead U.S. officer as a major general. One official said about half of the wounded were Americans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed discuss the information by name ahead of an official announcement.
Germany’s military said 15 NATO soldiers were wounded in an assault launched “probably by internal attackers.” The wounded included a German brigadier general, who the German military said was receiving medical treatment and was “not in a life-threatening condition.”
NATO said it was investigating the attack, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned as “cowardly.” It is “an act by the enemies who don’t want to see Afghanistan have strong institutions.”
Taliban officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Qargha is known as “Sandhurst in the sand” – referring to the famed British military academy – as British forces oversaw building the officer school and its training program. In a statement, the U.K. Defense Ministry said it was investigating the incident and that “it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Soldiers were tense in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One soldier in a NATO convoy leaving Camp Qargha fired a pistol in an apparent warning shot in the vicinity of Associated Press journalists who were in a car, as well as pedestrians standing nearby. AP photographer Massoud Hossaini said he and an AP colleague were about 5.5 meters from the soldier at the time.
“The vehicle before the last one, someone shouted at me,” Hossaini said. “The last one, the soldier opened fire.” No one was wounded.
The Qargha shooting comes as so-called “insider attacks” – incidents in which Afghan security turn on their NATO partners – largely dropped last year. In 2013, there were 16 deaths in 10 separate attacks.