News Brief – February 26, 2012
The shooting of two senior military advisors in the Afghan Interior Ministry marks a new low in the steady deterioration in NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan.
The gunman who killed the two American advisors on Saturday reportedly despatched both with execution style shots to the back of the head.
The shootings took place inside the heavily fortified Interior Ministry compound in Kabul, one of the most tightly guarded buildings in the city.
The Afghan authorities and NATO forces are still searching for the gunman who has been identified as Abdul Rahman.
Reports that copies of the Quran were being burned at an American airbase are thought to have prompted the shooting. Meanwhile a wave of protests has swept the country as even apolitical Afghans have taken to the streets in protest over the burning of Islam’s holy book.
The desecration of the Quran has the potential to alienate even those Afghans who don’t sympathise with the insurgents and has brought relations between NATO occupation forces and the government of President Hamid Karzai to a hazardous new low.
The two U.S. victims have yet to be named but are thought to have been shot while working at their desks. The two – a lieutenant colonel and a major – were found dead in an office thought to have been in one of the most secure parts of the compound.
Reportedly only those who knew a numerical combination could gain access to it.
Within hours of the shooting the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, Gen. John Allen, recalled all international military personnel from the ministries.
Citing “obvious force protection reasons” the order applied to service members operating under the NATO flag, including members of the 49 coalition countries, and other U.S. military personnel who are separate from the NATO chain of command.
Meanwhile the Taliban have named the killer as one of their sympathizers, Abdul Rahman. According to a Taliban spokesman, an accomplice in the ministry helped Rahman get inside the compound to kill the Americans in retaliation for the Quran burnings.
Authorities are also searching for an Afghan police intelligence officer, Abdul Saboor, in connection with the shooting. He has been missing since Saturday although it is unknown whether he helped the gunman gain access to the Interior Ministry or carried out the shooting himself.
At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds more injured since Tuesday, when reports first surfaced that Qurans and other religious material had been burned along with garbage at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul.