RAHIM FAIEZ Published Monday, Apr. 18, 2011 6:26AM EDT
Kabul –An apparent Taliban infiltrator wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire Monday inside the Defence Ministry, killing at least two soldiers before he was gunned down in the third deadly breach of security in Afghanistan in less than a week.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying insurgents planned the attack to coincide with a visit of the French defence minister who they believed was inside the compound. French officials said the minister, Gerard Longuet, was not inside the ministry during the attack.
It was not immediately clear if the assailant – who was wearing a vest rigged with explosives – was an enlisted soldier or an insurgent who had managed to get past ministry security disguised in the military uniform. The vest did not explode.
Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi previously said the attacker was an Afghan soldier. He later corrected his statement to say all that was certain was that the assailant was wearing an army uniform.
It was the third deadly attack inside an Afghan or international installation in four days, giving weight to warnings that this year’s spring fighting season is likely to be particularly bloody.
On Saturday, an Afghan soldier working as a Taliban sleeper agent turned on his colleagues, killing five NATO service members, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter. A day earlier, a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman blew himself up inside the Kandahar police headquarters complex, killing the top law enforcement officer in the restive southern province.
Monday’s shootout began when the assailant began firing at soldiers in the ministry compound in Kabul, Gen. Azimi said. He said the attacker was killed in the fighting. Gen. Azimi did not say anything about additional attackers.
Reporters were not allowed inside the ministry after the shooting. Extra guards took up positions at the entrances to the compound and security forces closed the road, but the area appeared calm from the outside.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was not inside the ministry when the attack occurred, said Lt. Col. Eric de Lapresle, a spokesman for French forces in Afghanistan. He said Mr. Longuet was scheduled to meet with Afghan officials Monday but did not provide details of where or who he was to meet.
Mr. Longuet arrived Sunday and had been meeting with French troops in the east. He did not go to the south as previously reported, Lt. Col. de Lapresle said. Some 3,850 French troops are deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission.
The shooting comes the same day that a protest against the arrest of a mullah in nearby Parwan province turned violent with protesters and police shooting at each other – killing at least one person, officials said.
The demonstration started over the arrest of a local mullah overnight in Charikar, the provincial capital, said provincial Police Chief Sher Ahmad Maladani. Armed men in the crowd started shooting and that police have not been able to regain control, Chief Maladani said.
At least one man has been confirmed dead from the melee at the main hospital in Charikar, said hospital director Abdul Khalil Farhangi. He said most of the injuries are bullet wounds and five people are in comas. One police officer was among the wounded, along with three children.
Mr. Farhangi said he could still hear shooting outside the hospital and helicopters were patrolling overhead.
The mullah, Sayed Ahmad, was arrested by Afghan and NATO forces late Sunday along with two others, said Abdullah Adil, an Afghan police official who co-ordinates with NATO in Parwan.
The two others were released, by Ahmad continued to be held Monday because of suspicions that he has links to insurgents, Mr. Adil said.