Few details known about fatal shooting inside Kabul CIA offices

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 26, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — One American was killed and another wounded when an Afghan employee of the U.S. Embassy opened fire Sunday night inside the CIA's office here, the embassy confirmed Monday.

What prompted the shooting remained a mystery, however, with U.S. officials providing no details, and even the Taliban not commenting on the attack, a notable omission in a country where the insurgency generally is quick to claim any assault on American interests.

It was the latest fatal attack by a supposedly friendly Afghan on U.S. and other coalition forces in a string of incidents that has claimed at least 59 Western lives since May 2007. A May 2011 report commissioned by the International Security Assistance Force and obtained by McClatchy said that such attacks had made up 6 percent of Western deaths in Afghanistan in the last two years and 30 percent of all field-grade officer deaths.

According to the embassy's statement, the Afghan employee was killed, though by who was not clear. The wounded American, whose injuries were described as "non-life threatening," was evacuated to a military medical facility, the embassy said.

The embassy declined to identify either the dead or the wounded American, and the CIA declined to comment.

A U.S. official who asked not to be further identified because of the sensitivity of the subject described the dead American "as one of many who provided essential support for the maintenance of the U.S. Embassy complex in Kabul."

The shooter, the same official said, is "believed to have worked as part of the local guard force."

The shooting was first heard sometime around 9:30 p.m. local time in an area known as the green zone, where many important foreign and Afghan facilities, including the U.S. Embassy, ISAF headquarters and the presidential palace, are located.

Initial reports indicated that the shooting was inside the heavily protected Ariana Hotel, the CIA's main station, a few blocks from the presidential palace. Later the U.S. Embassy announced that the shooting had taken place in one of the annex buildings of the embassy.

So-called "green on blue" shootings in which an Afghan attacks friendly international troops have been a growing concern, with such cases becoming more frequent in recent months.

In the first five months of the year, 21 Americans, three Germans and an Italian were killed by supposedly friendly members of the Afghan security forces, according to the May report on such incidents. The deadliest incident occurred April 27, when eight U.S. Air Force personnel and a civilian American adviser were shot by an Afghan pilot with 20 years' experience in the military.

According to the U.S. account of that shooting, the Afghan pilot argued with his American colleagues, then pulled a pistol, disarmed the Americans and methodically shot them one by one before turning the pistol on himself.

In that attack, the Taliban quickly took credit, though the gunman's family later insisted he had not joined the Taliban.

The U.S. study concluded that many of the attacks were motivated by personal animosity rather than a plan that originated with the Taliban.

Whatever the motivation, however, the attacks have created a high level of distrust between the United States and its Afghan allies, the May report found.

That is likely only to increase in the wake of Sunday's attack inside an embassy annex by an apparent member of the force tasked with guarding the facility.

Kabul, the capital and once a relatively safe area of the country, has been targeted frequently by insurgents over the last few weeks. Sunday's attack came less than two weeks after another high-profile attack on the U.S. Embassy, when a group of six insurgents took over a nearby high-rise building and showered rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifle fire on the embassy, ISAF headquarter and Afghan government facilities.

That attack lasted for 20 hours and left seven civilians dead. The Americans blamed the Haqqani network, a ruthless insurgent group fighting NATO and Afghan forces, and accused Pakistan's military spy agency, the Inter Service Intelligence, or ISI, of supporting the group.

The attack came less than a week after the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan's top peace negotiator, in his residence by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his turban. Rabbani was leading a government effort to broker peace with the Taliban.

(Zohori is a McClatchy special correspondent in Afghanistan. Jonathan S. Landay in Washington contributed.)

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