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KABUL — An Afghan soldier fatally shot four unarmed French troops on Friday, prompting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to suspend his country’s training mission in Afghanistan and warn of an early withdrawal of forces there.

The attack in Kapisa province, the second in less than a month by Afghan forces against French troops in eastern Afghanistan, also left 15 wounded, eight critically.

“The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans against terrorism and against the Taliban,” Sarkozy said. “The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them.”

The suspected shooter was apprehended and taken into custody, according to a release posted on the French Defense Ministry website.

The shooting happened less than 12 hours after six U.S. Marines died in a helicopter crash in Helmand province, according to various reports citing a senior U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the four French troops killed in Kapisa belonged to the same unit that lost two soldiers in a similar attack Dec. 29. The other three were members of a different unit, though all, including the wounded, were part of a mentoring team training Afghan forces, according to the French Defense Ministry release.

The wounded are being treated at a French hospital in Kabul and the American field hospital in Bagram, according to the release.

The incident was at least the second this month in which Afghan forces intentionally fired on international troops, and the third in roughly three weeks in which foreign forces died. An Afghan soldier killed an American infantryman and wounded three others in Zabul on Jan. 8.

During another incident at the end of December, U.S. troops shot dead an Afghan soldier after he fired on them during a joint patrol in the country’s western Farah province.

In the past, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force described such shootings as isolated incidents. Friday’s attack, however, seemed to indicate a rift between French mentors and Afghan forces in Kapisa, where two of the four recent attacks occurred. It also appeared to underscore a New York Times report Friday indicating that attacks on international forces by Afghan security forces are on the rise.

A classified report prepared for coalition commanders and obtained by the Times indicated that deadly attacks by Afghan forces are neither rare nor isolated, and “reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat,” according to an excerpt of the report. The report found that in the four years between May 2007 and May 2011, at least 58 international troops died in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and police.

millhamm@estripes.osd.milTwitter: @mattmillham


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