A veteran Afghan military pilot said to be distressed over his personal finances opened fire at Kabul airport after an argument Wednesday, killing eight U.S. troops and an American civilian contractor.
Those killed were trainers and advisers for the nascent Afghan air force. The shooting was the deadliest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces, or an insurgent impersonating them, on coalition troops or Afghan soldiers or policemen. There have been seven such attacks so far this year.
Although the individual circumstances may differ, the incidents of Afghans turning against their coalition partners seem to reflect growing anti-foreigner sentiment independent of the Taliban. Afghans are increasingly tired of the nearly decade-long war and think their lives have not improved despite billions of dollars in international aid.
The Taliban, who are currently staging their opening salvos of the spring fighting season, boasted that the gunman in Wednesday's airport attack was a militant impersonating an army officer.
This claim did not seem credible, however.
Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the gunman was an officer who had served as a pilot in the Afghan military for the past 20 years. The gunman -- identified as Ahmad Gul, 48, of Tarakhail district in Kabul province -- died in an exchange of fire that followed his attack.
The gunman's brother insisted he was not a Taliban sympathizer.
"He was under economic pressures and recently he sold his house. He was not in a normal frame of mind because of these pressures," said the brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibi. "He was going through a very difficult period of time in his life."
The shooting took place at 10:25 a.m. at Kabul's airport. The gunman opened fire at a meeting in an operations room at the Afghan Air Corps following an argument with foreigners, Afghan defense officials said.
It was unclear what the argument was about.
"Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, shooting started," said Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader, who uses only one name. "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."
Five Afghan soldiers were injured. At least one Afghan soldier was shot -- in the wrist -- but most of the soldiers suffered broken bones and cuts, Bahader said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shooting and offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims.
Separately, two other NATO service members were killed Wednesday -- one by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan and another in an insurgent attack in the east.