Afghan soldier kills three British troops: Kabul

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An Afghan soldier killed three British troops in a volatile region of the country on Tuesday, officials in Kabul said, pledging a full investigation into the shooting.

Details of the incident on an army base in southern Afghanistan were not immediately clear but the office of President Hamid Karzai voiced regret.

"We confirm that an Afghan army soldier has opened fire and killed three British soldiers," defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.

He gave no further details but said the ministry would soon release a statement.

The shooting drew parallels with an attack by an Afghan policeman last November who shot dead five British soldiers at a checkpoint in southern province Helmand, where the majority of Britain's troops are based.

A police official in Helmand, where the Britain has about 10,000 troops, said the Afghan soldier had escaped after Tuesday's attack.

The US-led NATO force in Afghanistan earlier announced that three foreign soldiers had been killed in an "attack" in the south, heartland of a nine-year Taliban insurgency, but gave no further details nor their nationalities.

"A joint ISAF and Afghan ministry of defence team is investigating the incident due to allegations the ISAF service members were fired upon by an Afghan national army soldier," it said, referring to NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

A military official in Kabul, who refused to be named, told AFP the soldiers were British and had died in a "friendly fire" incident.

The Afghan presidency called for a thorough investigation and expressed regret at a news conference, but was unable to confirm any details of the incident.

"The president was upset to hear this," said spokesman Waheed Omar.

US General David Petraeus, who assumed command of NATO troops in Afghanistan earlier this month, also offered his condolences.

"We have sacrificed greatly together and we must ensure that the trust between our forces (Afghan and international) remains solid in order to defeat our common enemies," said Petraeus.

Afghan army chief General Sher Mohammad Karimi said investigators "will seek to determine how this event could have occurred and we will prosecute those responsible".

Helmand is one of the most volatile regions of southern Afghanistan, where about 1,000 British troops are expected to leave Sangin, making way for US forces, and be redeployed to central Helmand by the end of the year.

The deaths bring to 356 the number of foreign troops to have died in the Afghan war so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on a count kept by The total for last year was 520.

The United States and NATO have 143,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting a Taliban insurgency, with the number due to rise to 150,000 in coming weeks.

© 2010 AFP

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