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Afghan uniform man kills US soldier

A man wearing an Afghan army uniform has shot an American serviceman dead in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

The shooting was the latest in a string of attacks against US and other foreign forces by their Afghan partners or insurgents in disguise.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 16 such attacks against American and other international troops. The shootings have strained US-Afghan ties already suffering from a lack of trust following the Koran burnings at a US base and the alleged killing spree by an American soldier in the south in recent months.

Relations appeared to be shifting back on track with Washington and Kabul agreeing to a long-awaited deal earlier this week on a strategic pact to govern the US presence in Afghanistan until 2024.

The attack took place late on Wednesday when the gunman turned his weapon on coalition troops and opened fire, the US military said in a statement. International forces returned fire, killing the attacker, the statement said without providing further details. The incident is under investigation.

A senior US defence official said the coalition member killed was an American.

It is possible the attacker was an insurgent disguised in an Afghan army uniform and not an actual member of the Afghan security forces. Such uniforms are easily available in markets in Afghanistan and the Taliban have used them to mount previous attacks on international or Afghan military installations.

Since 2007, more than 80 Nato service members have been killed by Afghan security forces, according to an Associated Press tally, which is based on Pentagon figures released in February. More than 75% of the attacks have occurred in the past two years.

Meanwhile, three Afghan women were killed in the crossfire of a battle in the east. A mortar fired during the fighting in Wardak province hit a house, killing the women inside, said Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The battle began when Taliban fighters ambushed a Nato convoy, Mr Shahid said. Both sides used heavy weapons, but it was not immediately clear who fired the mortar, he said.

Nato forces spokesman Captain Justin Brockhoff said reports indicate it was a joint Afghan and international patrol that came under fire. He said they were looking into reports that "civilian casualties may have been caused by the engagement".

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