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Afghan policewoman kills U.S. advisor

DynCorp International identifies the victim as one of its employees, Joseph Griffin of Mansfield, Ga.

December 24, 2012|By Alexandra Zavis and Hashmat Baktash, Los Angeles Times
  • Afghan police officers stand guard at the entrance to police headquarters in Kabul, where a female police officer shot and killed an American advisor.
Afghan police officers stand guard at the entrance to police headquarters… (S. Sabawoon / European Pressphoto…)

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan policewoman shot and killed an American civilian advisor Monday at the police headquarters in the capital, Afghan officials said, in what appeared to be the latest attack on a Westerner involving a uniformed Afghan security officer.

If confirmed as another so-called insider killing, the shooting would apparently mark the first time that a woman serving in Afghanistan's security forces has turned a gun against a member of the Western coalition.

The city's deputy police chief, Mohammed Daud Amin, identified the suspect as a three-year veteran of the force who serves in the gender rights department. He said it was not clear whether the shooting was intentional. The woman is in police custody and an investigation is underway, he said.

A statement from the U.S.-led NATO force confirmed the incident, saying one of its contracted civilian employees had died after being shot by "a woman wearing an Afghan police uniform."

A U.S. security contractor, DynCorp International, identified the victim as one of its employees, Joseph Griffin, 49, of Mansfield, Ga. A veteran of the U.S. military, Griffin was working in support of the Interior Ministry and Afghan National Police, the company said.

A sharp increase this year in insider killings, also known as green-on-blue attacks, has eroded trust between Afghan and NATO forces as they try to contain the Taliban insurgency before the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of 2014.

Excluding Monday's shooting, Afghan soldiers and police officers — or insurgents wearing Afghan security force uniforms — have killed at least 61 foreign troops and contractors this year, according to NATO figures. In 2011, 35 coalition members were killed in such attacks.

The number of insider killings appeared to subside after the International Security Assistance Force briefly suspended many joint operations and revised its procedures for dealing with Afghan security force members several months ago. The last known attack occurred Nov. 11, when a British soldier was killed in the southern province of Helmand.

Amin identified the suspect in the latest incident as a police sergeant and mother of four named Nargis, who, like many Afghans, uses one name.

According to Kabul's governor, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the woman shot the advisor with a pistol outside a shop that is located inside police headquarters. The headquarters are in a highly secured compound in the heart of the capital. Earlier, she had apparently been asking for directions to the governor's office, which is in the same compound, but was told he was out, Taqwa said.

Taqwa could not offer a motive for the shooting, saying he did not believe there was an argument between the woman and the advisor.

The statement from Griffin's employer said he had served in various U.S.-based law enforcement positions as well as in support of the company's global training and mentoring programs.

"Joe spent his career helping people all over the world, most recently working to help the Afghan people secure a better future," said Steve Gaffney, chairman and chief executive of DynCorp International. "The loss of any team member is tragic, but to have this happen over the holidays makes it seem all the more unfair. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe's family, loved ones and colleagues during this difficult time."

The company also issued a statement from Griffin's wife, Rennae. "My husband was a thoughtful, kind, generous and loving man who was selfless in all his actions and deeds," she said. "To me he was perfect."

Taliban insurgents have portrayed the increase in insider attacks as evidence of battlefield prowess and public support. But Western commanders say many of the incidents are the result of personal animosity and cultural differences between Afghan security force members and their foreign mentors.

Of the 79 attacks that occurred between May 2007 and September 2012, 6% were suspected cases of enemy infiltration, 14% involved security force members believed to have been co-opted by insurgents, and 38% were probably the result of personal motives, the Pentagon said in a recent report to Congress. The reasons for the remaining cases were unknown or under investigation.

Afghans have also died in attacks by fellow security force members. In the northern province of Jowzjan, authorities said a member of the local police force shot and killed five other officers under his command late Sunday before defecting to the Taliban.

The attack occurred in Traqoli Afghania village in Qoshtepa district, said the provincial police chief, Aziz Ghairat. In a statement Monday, the Taliban said the suspect had been in contact with insurgents before the attack and defected with nine guns and three motorcycles.

Also Monday, a NATO force member was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan. The NATO command provided no further details.

Baktash is a special correspondent.

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