A man dressed in Afghan army fatigues on Thursday shot dead two French soldiers in what appeared to be the latest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces on NATO troops.

"/> A man dressed in Afghan army fatigues on Thursday shot dead two French soldiers in what appeared to be the latest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces on NATO troops.

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AFGHANISTAN

Man in Afghan uniform kills French soldiers

A man dressed in Afghan army fatigues on Thursday shot dead two French soldiers in what appeared to be the latest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces on NATO troops.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the soldier joined the army in order to carry out his attack in Kapisa province, in the volatile east of the country where many of the 3,700 French troops in Afghanistan are based.

The insurgent group, which has been waging a 10-year insurgency against US-led NATO and Afghan forces, also said they carried out a roadside bombing in the southern province of Helmand that killed 10 local police.

“An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against two International Security Assistance Forces service members in eastern Afghanistan, today, killing both service members,” an ISAF statement said.

The Taliban, who frequently exaggerate their claims, said three French soldiers were killed and several others wounded.

“Ibrahim (the soldier)… achieved his aim by taking out three French invading troops and wounding a number of them after he opened fire,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on their website.

The perpetrator was also killed, he added.

The incident brings the total number of coalition military fatalities this year to 563, according to an AFP tally based on independent website iCasualty.org, down from a wartime high of 711 in 2010.

This year has been the bloodiest so far for French troops, with 26 killed.

The latest victims were members of the French Foreign Legion, Paris confirmed.

“During a support mission with the Afghan National Army (ANA) in the Tagab valley, the two non-commissioned officers were mortally wounded by deliberate fire from an Afghan soldier,” the French presidency said.

Afghan defence and provincial officials said they could not confirm whether the attacker was a soldier or an impostor.

“We can neither confirm nor deny that he was an Afghan soldier. We are still investigating,” said defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi.

In a series of incidents, Afghan government security forces, or those purporting to be, have turned their weapons on foreign troops.

In one of the biggest such attacks, an Afghan air force officer killed eight American troops and a US contractor at Kabul airport in April.

Last week, an Afghan soldier was killed after opening fire on US troops in southwestern Farah province.

Under a flagship strategy designed to allow foreign combat troops to leave by the end of 2014, NATO has built up the Afghan army to 180,000 troops.

But fears have been raised over possible Taliban infiltration because of rapid recruitment.

Roadside bombs remain the biggest killer in the conflict, increasingly used by insurgents to inflict a heavy toll on security forces and civilians.

One such bomb Thursday killed 10 Afghan police returning from a recruitment centre in Helmand, the local government said.

The victims were members of the US-funded Afghan Local Police (ALP) set up last year and touted as key to the security handover by 2014.

“Ten local police were killed and one was injured after their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province,” provincial governor’s spokesman Daud Ahmadi said.

“Our mujahedeen fighters attacked a police vehicle and as a result 10 police were killed including a police commander,” claimed Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.

Parts of Helmand remain highly unstable, although Nad-e Ali was one of the districts where President Hamid Karzai said security would be handed from NATO to Afghan control in a second wave of transition.

British forces have been operating in the district since 2006 and recently said the joint security effort had led to an 86 percent drop in violence this year compared to 2010.

The ALP arms local residents to protect their communities in areas where the Afghan army and regular police have limited reach.

It does not have law enforcement powers and is due to more than triple in size to 30,000. Critics have called it little more than a militia but NATO says the community force helps bolster security in rural areas.


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ARMY

French army officers convicted after recruit died during initial ritual

A French court on Thursday gave suspended jail terms to three soldiers convicted over the death by drowning of a trainee officer during an initiation ritual at the country's most prestigious military academy.

French army officers convicted after recruit died during initial ritual
The three officers in the dock. Photo: AFP

Jallal Hami, 24, drowned overnight on October 29th, 2012, while crossing a swamp as part of an exercise meant to teach the Saint-Cyr officer school's traditions to new recruits.

A total of seven soldiers, including a general, were tried for manslaughter.

A court in Rennes, a city in France's western Brittany region near the Saint-Cyr academy, sentenced an army captain, a commanding officer and a soldier who has since left the military to suspended terms of between six and eight months.

Four other defendants, including the general who was in charge of training at Saint-Cyr at the time, were cleared of the charges.

Hami's brother Rachid, who had accused the second-year students behind the hazing ritual of running amok, reacted angrily to the verdict.

“You have betrayed my brother once again,” he said.

The victim's brother Rachid Hami, speaking outside the court. Photo: AFP

On the night of Hami's death, new recruits were told to swim across a swamp for 43 metres, weighed down by their helmets in 9C water.

The exercise was meant to simulate a beach landing.

To the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries – famously used in the war movie Apocalypse Now – the recruits jumped into the cold water. Several quickly struggled and went under, gasping for air and clutching at others.

Organisers threw them lifebelts to help them out but it was too late for Jallal Hami, who was reported missing.

Firefighters, alerted an hour later, found his body at 2:35 am near the bank of the swamp.

During the trial the state prosecutor blasted the “madness” of an initiation ritual fuelled by “uncontrolled testosterone” and asked the court to give six of the defendants suspended terms of up to two years.

The prosecutor had however called for General Francis Chanson's acquittal.

Chanson's lawyer William Pineau had said that while the events were “tragic”, his client could not be held criminally responsible “because he did not know what really went on on the ground”.

Jallal Hami came to France in 1992 with his mother and brothers to escape Algeria's civil war.

Hami had for years dreamed of being admitted to Saint-Cyr, which was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.

His qualifications – Hami had earned a diploma from elite university Sciences Po, studied Mandarin and excelled at sports – allowed him to enter the officer school directly as a third-year trainee.

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