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Afghan Soldier Kills U.S. Marine in Helmand Province Shooting

An Afghan soldier shot dead a U.S. Marine in the southern province of Helmand, the latest in a series of incidents that have raised tensions between local and foreign troops.

The Afghan army soldier opened fire at close range as he and the Marine guarded a joint operating base at about 12:30 a.m. today, General Sayed Malook, a corps commander based in Helmand, said by phone. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed one of its soldiers was shot dead by an individual wearing an Afghan uniform.

The Taliban have claimed in the past to have infiltrated Afghan forces to carry out attacks on international troops or government officials. Malook said the Afghan soldier had been taken into custody and had told investigators that the killing was not deliberate.

Four French soldiers were shot dead Jan. 20 and seventeen others were wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in Kapisa province north of capital, Kabul.

Following those killings and talks in Paris with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country will withdraw its combat forces by the end of 2013, a year ahead of schedule. The outgoing U.S. undersecretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, last week stressed the need for NATO allies to coordinate their plans for troop withdrawals.

Afghan troops or police attacked ISAF personnel in more than three dozen incidents between 2007 and last year, according to a classified report the New York Times cited Jan. 20. In one of the deadliest cases, an Afghan air force pilot killed eight U.S. military personnel and a contract employee of the coalition in April.

Tensions between Afghans and the U.S. forces escalated this month when video footage emerged showing American Marines urinating on the bodies of Afghan Taliban they had killed in a battle. Karzai condemned the incident, and the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service said it had begun an inquiry.

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