KABUL — A gunman opened fire on a group of Americans on a military base at the Kabul airport Thursday, killing three U.S. civilian contractors and wounding a fourth, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
An Afghan air force official said the shooter was an Afghan soldier, Reuters news agency reported. An Afghan national was also reported killed in the shooting.
A motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, but dozens of so-called “insider attacks” by Afghan security forces in recent years have killed more than 142 members of a U.S.-led coalition fighting an insurgency by the radical Islamist Taliban movement. The highest-profile insider attack took place in August when a shooter opened fire on a delegation of U.S. and European visitors at an Afghan training base on the outskirts of Kabul, killing Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene. He was the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be slain in a war zone in four decades.
In a sketchy initial report of the airport attack, a U.S. military spokesman for the international coalition here said three contractors were killed, but he declined to specify their nationalities.
“We can confirm that there was a shooting incident at North Kabul International Airport complex 29 January at approximately 6:40 p.m.,” said Col. Brian Tribus in an e-mailed statement. “Three coalition contractors were killed as was an Afghan local national. This incident is under investigation. Further information will be released as available and appropriate.”
When asked whether the incident was one of the insider attacks perpetrated by Afghan security force members, Tribus declined to comment. He added that there would be no further official comments until the investigation was complete.
A Defense Department official in Washington subsequently confirmed that the three slain contractors were American civilians. There was no immediate information on the condition of the fourth American who was reported wounded.
Insider attacks surfaced in 2008 and surged for the next several years, gradually eroding trust between Afghan and coalition troops as the U.S. and NATO missions in Afghanistan wound down.
In 2012, 60 such attacks were reported, including the fatal shooting of two American advisers by a government worker inside the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul. By June 2014, the Long War Journal reported, 87 insider attacks had killed 142 coalition troops and wounded an additional 165.
Ryan reported from Washington. William Branigin in Washington contributed to this report.