Australia's worst day in Afghanistan
KABUL (PAN): Five Australian troops were killed on Wednesday and Thursday in two separate incidents – an insider attack and a helicopter crash – in southern Afghanistan, the alliance and officials said.
Three Australians were killed by a man wearing Afghan National Army’s uniform in central Uruzgan province, officials from the Australian Defence Force and the NATO-led coalition said.
The latest “green-on-blue” attack brought to 45 the number of NATO-led coalition troops killed in rogue shootings this year.
ISAF said an individual in ANA uniform turned his weapon against its service-members in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing three. In a brief statement, ISAF did not reveal further details, but added the incident is under investigation.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) confirmed three of their soldiers had been killed and two others wounded on Wednesday night in Afghanistan as a result of an insider attack by an Afghan security personnel in the restive province of Uruzgan.
Australian and Afghan forces are hunting for the man who shot and killed the three Australian soldiers at a patrol base in Uruzgan, where around 1,500 Australian troops are based.
Another two Australian soldiers were killed on Thursday in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, the worst combat losses Australia suffered since the Vietnam War, prompting Prime Minister Julia Gillard to return home early from a regional Pacific leaders' conference.
ISAF said there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash, saying the cause of the crash was being investigated.
A total of 38 Australian troops have been killed there since the war began.
An emotional Gillard told reporters in the Cook Islands, where she was attending a forum of Pacific islands leaders, that the news was so truly shocking. Gillard said she would cut short her visit and return to Australia later on Thursday for briefings on the deaths.
"We are there for a purpose and we will see that purpose through," Gillard said.
Australia's neighbour New Zealand said last week it would accelerate the withdrawal of its troops after three more were killed by a roadside bomb.
Fifteen coalition troops have been killed in similar incidents this month alone.
Australian Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin told reporters in Canberra the gunman used an automatic weapon at close range.
Binskin said the other two Australians, both special forces soldiers, were killed when their helicopter was attempting to land during an operation in neighbouring Helmand province. He said there was no sign the accident was caused by enemy action but refused to give further details.
NATO-led forces have increased security to try to counter the increase in insider shootings, including requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times on bases.
Kabul-based political analysts say insider attacks increased after this year’s Quran desecration incident at a US military base in central Parwan province.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey visited Kabul last week to discuss the worrying increase in rogue shootings. US President Barack Obama also expressed his "deep concern" over the insider attacks.
US and NATO forces top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, has said that international and Afghan forces were working closely to combat the threat of insider attacks.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for many of the incidents.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.