KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- A member of a highly regarded Afghan police force opened fire on British soldiers during an argument, killing three of them as they left a meeting with local elders in southern Afghanistan, Western and Afghan officials said Monday.
Afghan soldiers and police officers have attacked their U.S. and allied counterparts with increasing frequency in recent years. The assaults, once rare, have become common enough that they are widely referred to here, in shorthand, as "green-on-blue" attacks.
The latest shooting took place Sunday in southern Helmand Province, where the bulk of British forces in Afghanistan are based with a large number of U.S. Marines.
The coalition, as is its custom, released only the barest of details in a written statement late Sunday. It said three service members had been killed but did not specify the location or their nationalities. It also identified the attacker as a man "wearing an Afghan National Civil Order Police uniform," leaving open the possibility that the assailant was a Taliban infiltrator, not a colleague.
But a spokesman for the Helmand provincial government, Daoud Ahmadi, said Monday that the attacker had been a member of the Civil Order Police and had been fatally wounded in a firefight with British soldiers.
The Civil Order Police is a national force that often supports military operations. Western officials consider the force better trained and disciplined than the regular police force.
Britain's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the firefight between its soldiers and the Civil Order Police officer had taken place at a checkpoint. The soldiers were part of a team advising and training the police force, and they had traveled to the checkpoint from a larger base for a meeting, known in Afghanistan as a shura, with local elders.
As they left the shura, the attacker opened fire, and the three were wounded gravely enough that they could not be saved by first aid at the scene, the Defense Ministry said. The ministry did not identify the dead soldiers.
Col. Ghulam Sakhi, who commands Civil Order Police in Helmand, said the shooting, around 5 p.m., came at the end of an argument between British soldiers and the Afghan police.
NEW YORK TIMESxxxx