KABUL, Afghanistan – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is
condemning what he calls the murder of two American military officers in
Pentagon press secretary George Little says in a written
statement that Panetta believes Saturday’s killings in Kabul are unacceptable.
The nationality of the gunman hasn’t been confirmed. The
Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack inside a heavily guarded
government building, saying it was retaliation for the burning of Korans on a
U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
Feb. 25, 2012: Afghan policemen march towards an anti-U.S.
demonstration in Mehterlam, Laghman province east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Little says Panetta received a telephone call from his
Afghan counterpart, who offered his condolences and apologized for the incident.
Little says Panetta
urged the Afghan government to take “decisive action” to protect
coalition forces and to curtail violence after a week of unrest sparked by
outrage over the burning of the Muslim holy books.
Meanwhile, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces says that
all NATO personnel are being recalled from Afghan ministries following an
attack at the Interior Ministry in Kabul.
Gen. John Allen says
staff are being recalled “for obvious force protection reasons.” He
says NATO is investigating Saturday’s shooting and will pursue all leads to
find the person responsible for the attack.
Two U.S. military advisers were killed Saturday at the
Afghanistan Interior Ministry in Kabul, though accounts of what led to the
clash were unclear.
Contradictory accounts emerged out of Kabul following the
The Taliban claimed
responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for the Koran
U.S. officials said
the assailant remained at large and a manhunt was under way.
The two advisers were
shot in the back of the head, according to two Western officials, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the
Initially, reports from the country indicated that the
shooting was a result of an altercation between Westerners. But a report by the
Wall Street Journal, citing one Western official in Kabul, said the two
high-ranking advisers were killed by an Afghan police officer who was upset
about the burning of Korans earlier this week at a U.S. military base.
The Associated Press
then quoted a NATO official saying the shooter was not a Westerner.
A U.S. official in
Washington confirmed that the two killed were American and that they were
killed by “an assailant,” without giving further information about
the attacker. The official spoke anonymously to discuss information that had
not been publicly released.
NATO forces have advisers embedded in many Afghan
ministries, both as trainers and to help manage the transition to Afghan
control and foreign forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014. The Afghan
Interior Ministry oversees all of the country’s police, so has numerous NATO
The International Security Assistance Force released a
statement Saturday condemning that attacks. “We are investigating the
crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack.
The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go
unanswered,” Gen. John R. Allen said in the statement. “For obvious
force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all
other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul.”
At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds wounded
since Tuesday, when it first emerged that Korans and other religious materials
had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a
large U.S. base north of Kabul.
President Obama and other U.S. officials apologized and said
it was a terrible mistake, but the incident has sent thousands to the streets
in this deeply religious country.
In Kunduz, the capital of Kunduz province in northeast
Afghanistan, more than 1,000 protesters demonstrated. At first they were
peaceful, but as the protest continued they began throwing stones at government
buildings and a U.N. office, said Sarwer Hussaini, a spokesman for the
provincial police. He said the police were firing into the air to try to disperse
U.N. officials could not be reached for immediate comment.
Tensions between the
Afghans and the Americans already were high following the Koran burnings.
Anti-American sentiment has been on the rise in the war-weary country, and
several foreign troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers in recent months.
Some of those shootings have been blamed on personal hostilities, while others
have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators.
In a statement,
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the gunman was an insurgent named
Abdul Rahman. He said an accomplice inside the ministry helped him get inside
the compound. He said the killings were a planned response to the Koran
“After the attack, Rahman informed us by telephone that
he was able to kill four high-ranking American advisers,” Mujahid said.
The Taliban frequently exaggerate casualty claims.