Afghan Military Pilot Kills 9 Americans

An Afghan military pilot opened fire on a group of NATO soldiers at Kabul airport Wednesday, killing nine Americans. The Taliban claimed responsibility, but Afghan officials say the attack was the result of an argument.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And now to Afghanistan, where an Afghan air force pilot opened fire on NATO soldiers and trainers at a base next to the Kabul International Airport.

The shooter killed eight service members and one contractor, all Americans, before he himself was gunned down. Five Afghan soldiers were injured.

It's the latest in a string of attacks by men in Afghan military uniform. It's still not clear if the assailant was a Taliban agent.

Here's NPR's Quil Lawrence from Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE: Afghan officials say that around 10 a.m. local time, a veteran pilot from the Afghan air force quarreled with NATO trainers at the Air Corps Building in Kabul. Shortly after, shots rang out.

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible).

LAWRENCE: Security forces surrounded the building, and some Afghan officers were injured jumping from the second floor to escape, said Colonel Bahadur, a military spokesman who uses only one name. He confirmed that all the dead were NATO personnel, and he said the attacker had also been killed.

Soon after the incident, a Taliban spokesman, interviewed by phone, claimed the shooter was a long-time operative.

ZAIBULLAH MUJAHID: (Speaking foreign language).

LAWRENCE: Taliban spokesman Zaibullah Mujahid gave some convincing personal details about the attack and claimed that the pilot, Ahmad Gul Sahebi, had been an informant who was waiting for an opportunity to kill foreigners. The Taliban spokesman said the attack demonstrated the insurgents' ability to strike even within the most protected ministries and bases across the country.

The alleged shooter's brother, speaking on Afghan television, denied his brother had any links to insurgents.

Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking foreign language).

LAWRENCE: Still, this is only the latest, albeit the most deadly, in a string of similar attacks. Only 10 days ago a man in army uniform killed five Americans and four Afghans at a military base.

The Taliban almost always claims responsibility for the attacks, although some appear to have been caused by arguments with trainers or anger about the burning of a Quran in Florida.

Regardless of whether the shooter turns out to be a Taliban operative, international instructors of the Afghan police and military will be forced to be more cautious in training up the security force, which is supposed to take control of Afghanistan so foreign troops can go home.

Quil Lawrence, NPR news, Kabul

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