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Afghan working for Spain kills 3 at base

Riots break out after gunman dies in firefight

Spain’s interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, called yesterday’s shooting a “terrorist attack.’’ Spain’s interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, called yesterday’s shooting a “terrorist attack.’’ (Paul Hanna /Reuters)
By Robert H. Reid
Associated Press / August 26, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan driver working for Spanish police opened fire on a NATO base yesterday, killing three Spaniards before dying in a hail of gunfire.

Afghans angry at the driver’s death stormed the base in northwestern Badghis Province with stones and set fire to at least one vehicle, underscoring the brewing resentment among many Afghans over the presence of foreigners on their soil and the problems in rapidly expanding Afghanistan’s security forces.

Details of the shooting were unclear, but Spain’s interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, described it as a “terrorist attack.’’

“I can’t say if the Taliban were behind this or not,’’ he told reporters in Madrid. “But what is clear is that it was a premeditated attack. The person who opened fire knew exactly what he was doing.’’

He said the assailant had worked with the Spanish Civil Guard, a paramilitary force, since the unit arrived in Afghanistan five months ago to train Afghan police. The victims were two 33-year-old police trainers and a Spanish interpreter of Iranian origin, the minister said.

When word of the shooting spread, several hundred angry men gathered outside the walls of the Spanish compound, shouting “God is Great,’’ hurling stones, and ripping down fences, Associated Press Television video showed. Gunshots rang out, although it was unclear who was firing.

Abdul Aziz Tariq, provincial health director, said 25 people were wounded in the protest, most of them by bullets, with two in critical condition. Seven of those hospitalized were under 18 years old, but their wounds were not life-threatening, he said.

Police strung barbed wire in the streets to contain the crowd and restored order by midafternoon, said Sharafuddin Majidi, provincial government spokesman.

He said shots had been fired both from and toward the base, but James P. Judge, NATO spokesman, said there was no indication NATO soldiers had fired.

Majidi blamed rabble-rousers for inciting the crowd.

Many Afghans are often quick to blame international soldiers and contractors for acts of violence, reflecting public resentment about the role that foreigners play in their country.

Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, head of NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan, told reporters Monday that coalition and Afghan forces keep a sharp eye out for possible infiltrators at the recruitment, training, and deployment stages.

“So people are staying vigilant. And we are aware of the intent by people to try to do that type of infiltration,’’ Caldwell said.

Just three weeks ago, coalition forces detained a recruit at a police training site in the western province of Herat who was discovered to be a Taliban infiltrator from Pakistan.

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