KABUL: The Afghan soldier who killed US Major General Harold Greene had spent three years in the army before he squeezed off two to three bursts of gunfire from a first-floor window at a senior military delegation in Kabul, officials said.
As details emerged about Tuesday’s attack at a military complex in the Afghan capital, a picture was forming of a rogue Afghan soldier who may have been difficult to spot before he killed Greene and wounded 14 coalition troops.
Greene was the most senior US military official killed in action overseas since the war in Vietnam. His father described him as a popular kid growing up whose intellect led to his military success.
“He was unique to the military,” the father said. “He was performing a function that took in everything from research to development and helped develop weapons systems that help save a lot of lives in the field.”
A US military official in Washington offered details about the positioning of the gunman firing on the group from inside a building and the limited number of bursts of gunfire.
A spokesman for the German forces’ mission command in Potsdam, near Berlin, said the shooting at the complex on the outskirts of Kabul came from a neighbouring building. Brigadier General Michael Bartscher of Germany was among the wounded. “(The) delegation was listening to a speech in the open air on the premises of Marshal Fahim National Defence University when somebody opened fire,” the spokesman said.
High-ranking officers such as generals normally travel with their small security details.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Afghan Defence Ministry described the gunman, who was also killed, as a “terrorist in army uniform”, indicating its belief he was an Islamist militant who had infiltrated the army from outside.
“What motivated the shooting is still under investigation, but the shooter was an army soldier, not a terrorist from outside the base,” an Afghan defence official said.
The US official said the apparent inside attack was still seen as a somewhat “isolated case” and not the start of a new campaign. “Right now we’re looking at this as an outlier.”
According to an Afghan Interior Ministry official, initial information suggests that the attacker was called Rafiullah, a low-ranking soldier who was recruited to join the army from Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.
The area is a hotbed of Taliban activity and a stronghold of their Islamist militant allies, the Haqqani network.