American officers killed in Afghan Interior Ministry

Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:52pm EST
 
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By Hamid Shalizi and Amie Ferris-Rotman

KABUL (Reuters) - Two American officers were shot dead at close range in Afghanistan's Interior Ministry on Saturday, a U.S. official said, as rage gripped the country for a fifth day over the burning of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base.

NATO recalled all staff working at ministries in the Afghan capital, Kabul, following the attack, with its top commander in Afghanistan calling the killer a coward.

"For obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF (NATO's International Security Assistance Force) personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul," said General John Allen, adding that the attacker's actions "will not go unanswered."

The two American officers, advisers to the ministry, were fired on at close range, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they did not know the identity of the shooter and that there was no known witness to the crime.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shootings, which it said were in retaliation for the desecration of copies of the Koran by foreign troops at NATO's Bagram air base. Afghan security sources said the two dead were a U.S. colonel and major with NATO forces.

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter to his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, apologizing for what Washington says was the unintentional burning of the Korans, after Afghan laborers found charred copies while collecting rubbish.

The Koran burnings ignited anti-Western fury. Thousands have taken to the streets and at least 27 people have been killed in the protests. Two American soldiers were shot to death on Thursday by an Afghan national army soldier who joined the rallies.   Continued...

 
Afghan protesters move a dead man during clashes in Kabul February 24, 2012.  REUTERS/Ahmad Masood