Image: A man wounded in a Taliban rocket attack
Abdul Qodus  /  Reuters
A man wounded in a Taliban rocket attack targeting a market is carried to a hospital in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, on Thursday. Officials said the incident killed at least one civilian and wounded five others.
updated 10/16/2008 11:33:41 AM ET 2008-10-16T15:33:41

An Afghan policeman opened fire and tossed a hand grenade on a U.S. military patrol in eastern Afghanistan, killing an American soldier, the U.S. military said Thursday.

It was the second time in less than a month that an Afghan officer has killed a U.S. soldier, raising concerns that militants may have infiltrated the Afghan police force.

Meanwhile, an airstrike by foreign troops in southern Helmand province killed several women and children, a police chief said.

In the latest attack on U.S. soldiers, the policeman standing on a tower attacked the American foot patrol in Bermel district of the eastern Paktika province, the military said. The troops returned fire on the tower, killing the policemen.

The military said it was investigating the attack.

Last month, an Afghan policeman opened fire on U.S. troops at a police station in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, killing an American soldier and wounding three other troops. U.S. forces then killed the policeman.

The shooting took place after American troops and Afghan police brought suspected militants to the station.

In Helmand, an airstrike killed several women and children, said Assadullah Sherzad, the provincial police chief.

Angry villagers brought 18 dead bodies — including badly mangled bodies of women and children — outside the governor's house in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, said Haji Adnan Khan, a tribal leader in the city, who had seen the bodies.

Sherzad could not say how many people had died in the airstrike, which he said was launched by foreign troops.

NATO-led troops said they were investigating the claim.

The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign troops has caused major friction between President Hamid Karzai and his U.S. and other Western backers.

The Afghan government says 90 civilians were killed during a U.S. special forces raid in a village in the western Herat province on Aug. 22. Karzai ordered a review of whether the U.S. and NATO should be allowed to use airstrikes or carry out raids in villages.

The U.S. military investigation found that 33 civilians died in the raid, and concluded that the troops involved acted in line with their rules of engagement.

Karzai has for years warned the U.S. and NATO that it must stop killing civilians in its bombing runs, saying such deaths undermine his government and the international mission.

Elsewhere Thursday, insurgents kept up their assault on a key southern Afghan town, firing a rocket into a market that killed a civilian and wounded five others, a local official said.

The attack on Lashkar Gah follows two other assaults this week on the security checkpoints that ring the city. More than 80 militants were killed and three police were wounded.

The attacks on the city, the capital of the world's largest opium producing region, appears to signal the Taliban's intention to disrupt a major government center.

Large-scale Taliban attacks on major Afghan towns have been rare since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Fighting typically takes place in small villages and rural areas.

Thursday's rocket landed on a street lined with shops, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

Insurgency-related violence has killed more than 4,800 people — mostly militants — this year, according to an Associated Press count of figures from Western and Afghan officials.

Separately, a U.S.-led coalition member was killed and several others were wounded also in eastern Afghanistan after "a possible errant mortar round" aimed for insurgents hit their patrol, the U.S. military said. The statement did not say where it happened.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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