KABUL – A rogue Afghan police officer opened fire at a checkpoint in southwest Afghanistan, killing six police officers and injuring two before being killed, an official said Monday.
The incident — the second time in two months that a police officer has turned on colleagues — is a reminder of the steep challenge NATO troops face as they work to build a national police force that will be able to provide security and allow international forces to eventually leave.
The shooting in southern Nimroz province occurred Sunday morning in Khash Rod district, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli.
"One of our policemen opened fire on his colleagues at the checkpoint," Pardeli said, adding that an investigation was under way to find what prompted the shooting.
He said the suspect escaped to Dil Aram — another district in the province — where he was identified by a patrol of Afghan police and army soldiers. The patrol tried to stop him, but he started shooting again and was killed in a gun battle.
President Barack Obama is expected to announce a new Afghan strategy this week that includes tens of thousands more U.S. troops. The leading Senate Democrat on military matters said Sunday that any plan to significantly expand U.S. troop levels must show how those reinforcements will help increase the number of Afghan security forces.
Greater numbers of Afghan army and police are central to succeeding in the 8-year-old war, according to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and more U.S. trainers and an infusion of battlefield gear will help meet that goal.
But it's unclear, Levin said, what role additional U.S. combat troops will play in that buildup, and Obama has to make a compelling case during a national address he's scheduled to give Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
NATO's goal is to grow the largely uneducated police force into a professional force of about 134,000 officers by October 2010 from 94,000 today. But finding skilled recruits is difficult, and some of those joining the police now were recently on the side of the militants.
The push has been marked by violence. In October, a police officer opened fire on the British troops training him, killing five. Last year, police officers turned against American soldiers in two separate incidents, killing and wounding several.
In the same area as the latest shooting, a Turkish engineer for a private construction company has been missing since Sunday, when he drove out toward Dil Aram, Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad said.
In the north, meanwhile, two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed the head of logistics for the provincial intelligence service late Sunday, said Jowzjan provincial police chief Khalilullah Aminzada.
And in southern Helmand province, Afghan and international forces killed two militants responsible for planting roadside bombs, the Defense Ministry said.