(KABUKL, Afghanistan) — Two high-ranking United States officers were shot and killed Saturday by an assailant believed to be Afghan inside a high-security government building in Kabul on the fifth day of nationwide unrest sparked by the burning of Korans at a NATO military base.
The assailant entered the officers’ room at the Interior Ministry, which had a security code lock, and shot both in the head, according to a senior police official. The shooter escaped and remains at large, according to NATO and Afghan officials.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, though there is not yet any evidence connecting the group to the shooting.
Gen. John Allen, commander of the ISAF, responded to the attack by pulling all foreign advisers out of Afghan ministries. There are hundreds of advisers from 49 coalition countries assigned to various ministries.
“I condemn today’s attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today,” Allen said Saturday. “We are investigating the crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered.”
According to the senior Afghan official, the shooter walked into a room at the Interior Ministry used by U.S. advisers and fired six to seven bullets.
The shooter’s access to one of the most secure parts in all of Kabul may mean that he either worked in the ministry or was given the information by someone in the ministry.
Afghan and U.S. officials are currently looking at security camera footage to try to identify the shooter. The nationality of the shooter has not yet been officially identified by police, but the ISAF directive recalling the foreign advisers indicated that he was Afghan.
“The assailant is unknown, and an aggressive search is under way to determine who is responsible,” Pentagon spokesman, George Little, said.
Since Tuesday, the country has been roiled by protests over the American military’s burning of religious texts, including Korans. NATO is investigating the burning. A public apology by President Obama on Thursday failed to quell the unrest.
Just hours after the attack at the Interior Ministry on Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office released a message from the nation’s top religious council demanding that the U.S. “guarantee” no further desecration of Korans.
On Thursday, two U.S. soldiers were gunned down by a member of the Afghan Army at a base in eastern Afghanistan as civilians protested the Koran burnings outside the base.
Protestors took to the streets today throughout Afghanistan. A crowd of 5,000 attacked U.N. headquarters in the northern city of Kunduz. Five protestors died and more than 50 were wounded, according to officials.
Dozens were also wounded in the eastern province of Laghram when police opened fire as protesters marched on the governor’s palace.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Don Melvin, Joshua Berlinger and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN Newswire
Claire Moran, CNN