KABUL // A rogue Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a group of international forces early today, killing three British troops, before fleeing, a military spokesman said. Four others were wounded. It was the second time in eight months that an Afghan killed British troops working with local security forces. In November, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a another checkpoint in southern Helmand province, where today's attack happened.
President Hamid Karzai quickly sent a letter of apology to the British government. Gen David Petraeus, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, called for unity among international troops and the Afghan soldiers in the fight against the Taliban. Such intentional attacks are rare, but emphasise the difficulties in rapidly expanding the Afghan forces to take over responsibility for security from international troops. Critics have said a rushed schedule, aimed at allowing US forces to begin drawing down by next year, makes it difficult to screen out insurgent sympathisers and also to properly train up Afghan forces in military discipline.
The renegade Afghan soldier used a shoulder-mounted launcher to fire a grenade at British soldiers at around 2am, the Afghan defence ministry spokesman, Gen Mohammad Zaher Azimi, said. The soldier escaped and is being sought, he said, adding that the motive of the attack was not yet clear. A joint coalition-Afghan team is investigating. The British prime minister David Cameron's office said he had been made aware of the incident, but declined to comment specifically until next of kin are informed.
Gen Petraeus also expressed condolences and made his call for unity among security forces. "We have sacrificed greatly together, and we must ensure that the trust between our forces remains solid in order to defeat our common enemies," he said in a statement. The Afghan army's chief of staff Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi also expressed solidarity. "The loss of any of our coalition partners affects us deeply," Gen Karimi said. "Our ongoing, partnered investigation will seek to determine how this event could have occurred and we will prosecute those responsible."
With about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, Britain is the largest contributor to the Nato force after the United States. Most of its troops are deployed in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold. * AP