Three Australian troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan have been killed in an attack by a member of the Afghan security forces, officials said, in the latest insider attack that has caused growing dismay among coalition commanders.
The assault occurred in southern Uruzgan province in the evening hours on Wednesday, a US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
About 1,500 Australian troops are deployed in the province as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing three,” ISAF said in a statement.
“The incident is currently under investigation.”
NATO has struggled to counter the so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in which uniformed Afghans turn their weapons against their international allies.
The assaults have spiked this year, with more than 30 attacks claiming the lives of 45 coalition troops, comprising about 14 per cent of the overall death toll in the war for 2012, according to ISAF.
The assaults have troubled the international force, which has portrayed its partnership with Afghan troops as the key to a planned withdrawal of foreign combat troops over the next two years.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General John Allen, said last week the causes of the surge in insider attacks are varied, and that Taliban infiltration only accounts for about a quarter of the incidents.
The general told reporters that the recent spate of assaults may have been related to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as he said Afghan soldiers were under strain from fasting in intense heat while engaged in combat.
A Pentagon assessment last year found serious tensions between the coalition forces and their Afghan counterparts, with relations plagued by cultural clashes and deep mistrust.