Afghan Officer Opens Fire, Kills Nine Americans

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A senior Afghan military pilot opened fire at Kabul airport on Wednesday, killing eight U.S. soldiers and an American civilian contractor.

The shooting took place during a mid-morning meeting in an operations room at the airport, Afghan Defense Ministry officials reported. The officer opened fire after an argument "with foreigners," the officials said.

The U.S. troops were serving as trainers and advisers to the Afghan Air Corps.

"Suddenly in the middle of the meeting, shooting started," said Col. Bahader, spokesman for the Afghan Air Corps.

"After the shooting started, we saw a number of Afghan army officers and soldiers running out of the building. Some were even throwing themselves out of the windows to get away," Bahader said.

Five Afghan soldiers were injured in the fracas, most suffering broken bones, he said.

The Taliban took credit for the shooting, saying the pilot was an insurgent impersonating an officer, but the Afghan officials quickly put that theory to rest.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi identified the shooter as Ahmad Gul, 48, a veteran 20-year military pilot. Gul was shot dead at the scene. His brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibibi, said Gul was not in a "normal frame of mind" because of personal pressures.

"He was under economic pressures and recently sold his house," Sahibibi said on a private television station in Kabul.

"He was not in a normal frame of mind because of these pressures. He was going through a very difficult period of time in his life," he said.

"He served his country for years. He loved his people and his country. He had no link with the Taliban or al-Qaeda," Sahibibi said.

NATO training mission head Lt. Gen. William Caldwell called the deaths a "tragic loss."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident and expressed his condolences to family members.


AP contributed to this report.

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