KABUL, Afghanistan -- A freshly minted recruit to a village police force in western Afghanistan shot and killed two American troops and wounded a third on Friday as soon as he was handed his new service weapon, officials said.
The shooting brought the number of U.S. forces killed in "insider" shootings -- attacks by Afghan allies -- to nine in 11 days.
Underscoring the depth of the problem of Afghans turning their guns on Western mentors, another such shooting took place just hours later in nearby Kandahar province, but did not result in any deaths except that of the assailant. Two NATO troops were wounded in that episode, military officials said.
In the fatal shooting in Farah province, the attacker, who had joined a village militia known as the Afghan Local Police just five days earlier, was shot and killed in return fire, according to American and Afghan officials.
Afghan authorities said the gunman, identified as Mohammad Ismail, also killed a member of the Afghan national police when he opened fire, and that another member of the Afghan Local Police was wounded in the melee.
Military officials declined to identify the branch of service of the two dead Americans, but U.S. special-operations forces are the main mentors of the Afghan Local Police, a force that was set up to help keep the Taliban from taking over rural communities.
Friday's shooting, which came as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was drawing to a close, took place at the start of what was to have been a practice session on a firing range in a village called Kanesk, said Aqa Noor Kentoz, Farah's provincial police chief. He said directly after Ismail was given a gun to begin his training, he turned it on the Americans present.
The U.S. military said in a statement that the incident was under investigation.
"Insider" shootings -- attacks carried out by Afghan police, soldiers or members of the security apparatus -- have risen sharply this year, with the pace intensifying in recent weeks. Last week alone there were three separate lethal assaults that killed seven American troops, including six U.S. Marines.
The NATO force does not routinely report "insider" attacks that do not result in Western troop deaths, but military officials sometimes confirm accounts provided by Afghan authorities. Counting Friday's attack in Kandahar province, there have been at least three failed attempts this month by members of the Afghan security forces to kill NATO troops.
-- Laura King and Aimal Yaqubi
Photo: Afghan police check vehicles in Herat, where security has been intensified ahead of Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of Ramadan. Credit: Jalil Rezayee / EPA