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Afghan Attackers Kill Two U.S. Soldiers in Kandahar

March 1 (Bloomberg) -- Two U.S. troops were shot to death in southern Afghanistan in an assault by three Afghans, continuing the attacks on coalition forces that have followed the burning of Korans at an American military base.

“Two of the attackers were subsequently killed by our forces,” George Little, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The attackers killed in Kandahar province were an Afghan National Army soldier and a civilian literacy instructor, according to U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings Jr., a spokesman in Kabul for the 50-nation coalition led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The second Afghan soldier is in custody, and investigators are trying to determine the circumstances and whether the Koran burnings motivated the shooting.

The deaths bring to six the number of Americans killed by Afghan partners working alongside them since Korans were found burning in a trash dump at a U.S. base almost two weeks ago. Violent demonstrations in the aftermath and the American deaths have raised new questions about the U.S. strategy of working closely with Afghan forces toward a transfer of combat duties before the planned withdrawal of NATO-led troops in 2014.

A lieutenant colonel and a major were shot in the back of the head in the heavily guarded Interior Ministry in Kabul, and two U.S. soldiers were shot by a man in an Afghan army uniform in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The discovery that Korans were being burned at the Bagram air base, the largest U.S. installation in Afghanistan, led to an apology by President Barack Obama.

‘Troubling Incidents’

Little, the Pentagon spokesman, said today the “troubling incidents” won’t change the coalition’s strategy.

“We have confidence in our ability to work closely with” Afghan forces, Little said. “This is a war zone. There’s no such thing as zero risk.”

Marine General John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has sent specific coalition advisers back to Afghan government ministries. He had recalled all of them from offices in and around Kabul after the Interior Ministry shooting. The advisers are working under new security procedures, according to Cummings, who wouldn’t give details of the precautions taken.

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at vgienger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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