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News Wrap: Two-star U.S. general shot dead in Afghan attack at military base

August 5, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: A two-star American general was shot and killed in Afghanistan today by a man in an Afghan army uniform. The Pentagon has not identified the officer, but the Associated Press said he is Major General  Harold Greene.  The attacker machine-gunned NATO troops at a base west of Kabul. He wounded 15, including a German general and half-a-dozen Americans, before being killed himself.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the incident, but had few details.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: The incident will be jointly investigated by Afghan and ISAF authorities. That investigation is just now getting under way. We need to let it proceed before speculating about any specific circumstances.

GWEN IFILL: NPR correspondent Sean Carberry has been reporting on the shooting from Kabul. He spoke with us a short while ago, before the general was identified.

Sean Carberry, to the best of your knowledge, how could this have happened?

SEAN CARBERRY, NPR: Well, at this point, it’s unclear whether or not this was an infiltration by the Taliban or simply an officer who was angered by a dispute at the time.

A lot of security measures have been put in place over the last couple of years to guard against insider attacks. There are so-called guardian angels who are forces who hover around U.S. and NATO officials when they’re meeting with Afghans, and additional measures such as carrying loaded magazines in their weapons.

So, over the years, there have been measures to prevent this kind of incident, but at this point it’s unclear whether or not this was a Taliban infiltration, whether it was, again, a matter of a dispute and something that escalated too quickly to do anything about.

GWEN IFILL: But it is confirmed at this point that this was someone in an Afghan soldier’s uniform who attacked the officer?

SEAN CARBERRY: Yes, the gunman was wearing an Afghan army uniform. They have not yet confirmed whether or not he was an active army officer.

The Afghan military have not confirmed one way or another. They simply referred to him as a terrorist in an Afghan uniform. But the Pentagon has said there’s no reason to suspect that the man wasn’t a member of Afghan forces.

GWEN IFILL: They call this kind of internal attack green on blue, green on blue crime. Describe what that means and how rare it is.

SEAN CARBERRY: Well, this year, it’s been increasingly rare. The last fatal green on blue attack was in February.

And green refers to Afghan forces. Blue refers to NATO or U.S. forces, so these are cases where an Afghan security force, whether it’s army or police, shoots at NATO or U.S. forces. Again, in 2012, there were a rash of these attacks. There were more than 60 NATO forces killed in more than 40 of these attacks in 2012. They have steadily declined with increasing security measures and the decreasing presence of foreign troops here.

GWEN IFILL: And, of course, what’s caught our attention is that someone so high ranking was a victim this time. Has that happened in recent memory?

SEAN CARBERRY: Certainly not.

This is the highest ranking U.S. military official killed in Afghanistan and, according to sources, the highest ranking U.S. military official killed in an active combat zone since the Vietnam War. So this is very unusual and the function of a meeting today that was between some high-level NATO officials and high-level Afghan officials.

In fact, the Afghan general in charge of the base where this took place was also shot and seriously wounded.

GWEN IFILL: Sean Carberry of NPR, thanks so much.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The second of two Americans infected with the deadly Ebola virus arrived back in the United States today. Missionary Nancy Writebol had been working in Liberia. She was flown to Atlanta this morning and taken to Emory University hospital for treatment. Dr. Kent Brantly is already being treated there. Both are receiving an experimental drug.

GWEN IFILL: There’s word today that 730,000 Ukrainians have fled into Russia this year to escape the fighting in their country. The U.N. Agency for Refugees reported that figure today, based on Russian data. Within Ukraine, another 117,000 people have been displaced, and U.N. officials say that number is growing by about 1,200 each day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In southwestern China, the earthquake death toll rose to at least 410, as search-and-rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain. The hardest-hit area is a mountainous region 230 miles northeast of the city of Kunming. Some 10,000 Chinese soldiers, as well as hundreds of volunteers, are involved there. They’re using sniffer dogs to search for those still buried in the rubble.

LT. COL. YANG TIANJUN, Site Commander for Rescue Operations (through interpreter): The priority for us now is search-and-rescue. And we hope to find some survivors. This is the most devastated place in town and many victims are buried in the debris, so this is the main area for us to search-and-rescue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Chinese officials say thousands of mudbrick homes were destroyed in Sunday’s quake.

GWEN IFILL: And, in Beijing, officials announced plans to ban the use of coal by the end of the decade. The Chinese capital is plagued by deadly levels of air pollution. Much of the dust that contributes to the smog comes from coal. The plan is to transition to electricity and natural gas for heating.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A Japanese scientist embroiled in a scandal over stem cell research committed suicide today. Police said Yoshiki Sasai hanged himself. He had co-authored papers in the journal “Nature” that claimed to show how to reprogram mature cells into embryonic stem cells. Within months, the papers had to be retracted for containing falsified data. The incident became a major embarrassment for Japan’s scientific community.

GWEN IFILL: A criminal gang in Russia has pulled off the biggest Internet data theft yet. The New York Times reports the ring has stolen 1.2 billion username and password combinations, plus 500 million e-mail addresses. The report cites information from Hold Security, a Milwaukee firm that’s uncovered several other major hacking incidents.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street had a down day, partly on worries that Russia might intervene militarily in Ukraine. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 140 points to close at 16,429. The Nasdaq fell 31 points to close below 4,353. And the S&P 500 slipped more than 18 to finish at 1,920.