An Afghan soldier opened fire at a base in Afghanistan, seriously wounding three Australian soldiers, officials said Wednesday. It was second such attack on Australian soldiers in less than two weeks.
The shooter, armed with an automatic weapon and a grenade launcher, also injured two Afghan soldiers in Tuesday's attack at a base in southern Uruzgan province, Australian Defense Force chief Lt. Gen. David Hurley said. Australian soldiers were hunting for the attacker, who fled in an Afghan army vehicle, and Afghan soldiers at the base were disarmed as a precaution, Hurley said.
On Oct. 29 in southern Kandahar province, another Afghan national army soldier killed three Australian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter. Seven other Australian soldiers were wounded in that incident, and the attacker was shot dead.
"I understand the reaction that many Australians will have to the news of this latest incident so soon after the death of three soldiers in similar circumstances," Hurley told reporters in Canberra, Australia's capital. "However, it is too early to speculate whether the two incidents are linked."
The three Australians wounded Tuesday were in serious condition at an Afghanistan hospital, Hurley said. The two injured Afghans were treated and are in satisfactory condition.
Hurley declined to release details of the investigation into the Oct. 29 attack, including what that shooter's motive may have been.
Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force provided by any country outside NATO. Thirty-two Australian soldiers have been killed in the conflict.
The Australian troops have been focused on training the Afghan national army to take over security responsibility for Uruzgan province. Australian plans to withdraw its soldiers by 2014.
"As distressing as these incidents are, as dreadful as these incidents are, our mission in Afghanistan does need to continue," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. "Training is pivotal to that mission."
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