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Top U.S. general's plane damaged by Afghan insurgent fire

August 21, 2012 |  4:43 am

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Mortars or missiles fired by insurgents hit the plane being used by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff while it was on the ground at a NATO base, but the top American general was not in or near the aircraft at the time, Western military officials said Tuesday.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who had traveled to Afghanistan to confer with senior Afghan and U.S. officials, was in his quarters at sprawling Bagram air base, north of Kabul, at the time of the overnight strike, said Lt. Col. Hagen Messer, a spokesman for the NATO coalition.

Shrapnel damaged a NATO helicopter and the exterior of the C-17 aircraft that had been used to transport the general to Afghanistan, and Dempsey departed aboard another plane, Messer said.

"It was not a targeted attack," the spokesman said, adding that indirect fire was not uncommon at the Bagram base. Usually such strikes cause only minor damage and no injuries, although in the past there have been fatalities inside the installation as a result of Taliban rocket strikes.

Dempsey's visit came on the heels of a spate of "insider" shootings by Afghans that have claimed the lives of 10 American troops this month. He conferred with officials including Marine Gen. John Allen, the American who heads the NATO force, and Afghan army chief of staff Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi about ways to prevent such attacks.

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