Wire: 5 British Soldiers Killed in Southern Afghanistan
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that an Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in Helmand provence, killing five, British and Afghan authorities said Wednesday, raising concerns about possible infiltration by insurgents.
The Associated Press said the incident came almost exactly a month after an Afghan policeman on patrol with U.S. soldiers opened fire on the Americans, killing two before fleeing.
The five British soldiers were killed in Helmand's Nad-e-Ali district on Tuesday afternoon, Britain's Defense Ministry said, bringing the total number of British forces who have died in Afghanistan to 229. NATO said "a number" of soldiers were also wounded in the incident, along with two Afghan policemen.Last year over a period of less than a month, Afghan policemen twice attacked American soldiers in the east of the country. In October 2008, a policeman threw a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. foot patrol, killing one soldier, while the previous month, an officer opened fire at a Paktia police station, killing a soldier and wounding three before he was fatally shot, AP said.
Britain has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, the second largest force after the United States. Last month, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans to increase troop numbers in the country by about 500.
"The soldiers concerned were mentoring Afghan national police. They were working inside and living inside an Afghan national police checkpoint, just outside Nad-e-Ali district center," Lt. Col. David Wakefield, spokesman for the British forces, told Sky News. "It is our initial understanding that an individual Afghan policeman possibly acting in conjunction with one other started firing inside the checkpoint before fleeing from the scene."
NATO said the attacker's motives were unclear, and that the incident was being investigated by Afghan authorities and Britain's Royal Military Police.
(Report from newswire sources.)