Sitting at their desks inside the government building where they serve as advisers to the Afghan security forces the two U.S. Army officers were shot and killed, NBC News reported.
“The assailant is unknown, and an aggressive search is under way to determine who is responsible,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in Washington.
Gen. John Allen, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said all NATO personnel were being recalled from Afghan ministries “for obvious force protection reasons.”
“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,” Allen said in a statement.
NATO confirmed that two service members were killed, but spokesman Lt. Col Jimmie Cummings said “initial reports say it was not a Western shooter.” He declined to provide further information.
“American and Afghan troops were present at the time of the shootout, but we are unsure who killed them,” a senior Afghan security source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Afghan Taliban took credit for the attack claiming that two of their fighters had entered the building in Kabul and killed four “high-ranking U.S. advisers,” according to NBC News. U.S. military officials confirmed only two deaths.
“Our suicide bomber Abdur Rahman along with another fighter managed to enter the interior ministry and open fire at the Americans. Before carrying out the suicide attack, Abdur Rahman told us on telephone that he had killed four high-ranking Americans. The second fighter successfully escaped the building and has joined his fighters now,” the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a phone call to NBC from an undisclosed location.
He said it was revenge for the desecration of the holy Quran by the U.S. forces.
At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Tuesday, when it was first revealed that Qurans and other religious materials were burned in a fire pit used to dispose of garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large U.S. base north of Kabul. Among those dead were two U.S. soldiers who were killed Thursday by one of their Afghan counterparts while a riot raged outside their base in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
President Obama and other U.S. officials apologized and said the burning of Qurans was a terrible mistake.