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Afghan Pilot Shoots Dead Eight NATO Soldiers And One Contractor

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at the gate of the air force compound near Kabul.
NATO officials in Afghanistan say eight members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed along with a private contractor when an Afghan pilot opened fire on them at a training center near Kabul International Airport.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said all the dead were American.

Afghan officials are calling it the deadliest episode to date in which an Afghan soldier has turned against his own coalition partners.

General Daud Amin, deputy commander of Kabul police, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the gun battle took place during a meeting between the Afghan pilot and an officer with the ISAF mission.

Amin said the two were inside the headquarters of the Afghan Air Corps on the northeastern edge of Kabul's civilian airport when their conversation became a heated argument.

The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed that report, saying the argument escalated into a gun battle shortly before noon when the Afghan pilot started shooting. The ministry described the Afghan officer as a "veteran military pilot" and said he also was killed in fire fight.

But a spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by an infiltrator dressed in an Afghan military uniform.

Several Similar Incidents This Year

An Afghan Air Corps spokesman, Colonel Bahader, told reporters that the shooting took place inside an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps.

He said several Afghan military officers tried to run out of the building as soon as the shooting started. He said some even threw themselves out of the windows to try to escape the clash.

Five Afghan soldiers were injured during the firefight. At least one Afghan was shot in the wrist. Bahader said most of the injuries were broken bones and cuts.

It was the seventh time so far this year that members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents impersonating them, have killed coalition soldiers or Afghan security forces.

In the most recent such incident, on April 18, at least two Afghan soldiers were killed and seven injured in an attack within Afghanistan's Defense Ministry compound.

Afghan military spokesman Zaher Azimi said the attacker on April 18 was wearing a uniform of the Afghan National Army when he opened fire on the soldiers. Other reports said a suicide bomber was involved.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the April 18 attack, saying it was carried out by infiltrators wearing Afghan military uniforms as well as a suicide bomber.

Two days earlier, the Afghan Defense Ministry said a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan Army uniform blew himself up in an attack NATO said killed five foreign troops.

with agency reports