(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Australian forces in Afghanistan suffered their deadliest 24-hour period of the war as five of their troops were killed, three at the hands of an Afghan soldier.
Witnesses said that the “insider attack” occurred at a fuel depot Wednesday in Oruzgan Province where most of Australia’s 1,550 forces are deployed.
The shooter apparently opened fire at the coalition soldiers, fatally wounding three of them before fleeing the area. NATO officials don’t know what caused the Afghan soldier to turn on his allies.
Meanwhile, two more Australian soldiers were killed Thursday when their helicopter went down in Helmand Province, one of the most violent regions of Afghanistan where the Taliban is still entrenched.
Told of the deaths while on a visit to Cook Islands, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, “This is a very big toll. This is our single worst day in Afghanistan.”
Australia is scheduled to pull its forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year sooner than the U.S. and NATO. However, Gillard maintained that this week’s deaths would not hasten the withdrawal.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
Holly Yan and Nadeem Muaddi, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN