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Violence spikes across southern Afghanistan

By Deb Riechmann

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 10:14 a.m. MDT

A US soldier, part of the NATO forces, patrols a police station after it was attacked by militants in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. U.S. and Afghan officials say three individuals dressed in Afghan police uniforms turned their guns on coalition troops Monday in Zhari district of Kandahar province, killing one NATO service member and wounding several others. Monday's attack is among nearly 20 this year that have raised the level of mistrust between the coalition and their Afghan partners as NATO gears up to hand over security to local forces ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops.

Allauddin Khan, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

KABUL, Afghanistan — Violence spiked in southern Afghanistan as militants stormed a NATO military base and attacked a police checkpoint Tuesday, a day after gunmen wearing police uniforms killed a U.S. soldier.

The heaviest fighting in Afghanistan this summer has been in the south and east where Afghan forces are increasingly taking charge of security from their international partners. That could signal a rocky transition as foreign combat troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Most of the attacks over the past two days occurred in the southern Kandahar province, the Taliban's birthplace.

Insurgents attacked a NATO base before dawn Tuesday in Kandahar's Shah Wali Kot district, but no service members were killed, the U.S.-led coalition said.

"Initial reports indicate that seven insurgents launched an attack on a NATO installation and initially were successful in breaching the outer security perimeter," NATO said in a statement. "Current reporting indicates all the attackers have been killed."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting troop sleeping quarters.

Provincial government spokesman Javid Faisal said initial reporting indicated that at least one foreign worker was killed and two other foreigners were wounded, but the report could not be independently confirmed.

A few hours later, militants wearing Afghan police uniforms attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar city. Three policemen were killed and nine others were wounded during an hour-long gun battle that ensued, according to the Ministry of Interior. Four militants also died.

The Taliban again claimed responsibility and said the clash lasted six hours.

The U.S. and other foreign troops have increasingly been targeted by Afghan security forces, or militants disguised in their uniforms.

On Monday, three gunmen dressed in Afghan police uniforms killed one American service member and wounded nine others in Kandahar's Zhari district, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the attack was still under investigation. Faisal, the spokesman for Kandahar province, said the attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the coalition forces and then fled the scene.

The Defense Department said U.S. Army Pfc. Jarrod Lallier, 20, of Spokane, Washington, died after his unit was attacked with small arms fire and grenades. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Efforts to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan rely on the Americans working closely with their Afghan partners to train and mentor them so that they can take over the security of their country. Such insider attacks fuel distrust between the two forces and have triggered increased security protections for the U.S. service members serving in Afghanistan.

It remains unclear whether the gunmen were actual members of the Afghan National Police or militants dressed in their uniforms.

The number of insider attacks in the country has escalated, with more than a dozen fatal assaults already this year that have led to more than 20 deaths.

Last year 21 fatal attacks killed 35 coalition service members, according to the coalition. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.

The increase accelerated after a series of mistakes and other behavioral problems by U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, including the burning of Qurans and other religious materials earlier this year at a U.S. base north of Kabul.

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