An Afghan employed by the U.S. embassy opened fire at the CIA's Kabul headquarters Sunday night, killing a CIA employee and injuring another U.S. civilian, according to a U.S. official.
The attack was the second this month against U.S. officials in Kabul, an unprecedented level of violence against the U.S. that one U.S. official warned was "the beginning of a trend."
It's not clear why the shooter -- who was shot dead during the attack -- fired at the two American employees. A U.S. official said the two were not targeted specifically and were just "in the wrong place at the wrong time." Neither was a senior officer and one was a plumber, the U.S. official said.
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This is the third time in as many weeks that the most secure part of Kabul has been attacked. Two weeks ago, at least six rockets landed inside the embassy during a 20-hour siege in which seven Afghans were killed and more than 10 NATO service members were injured. Last week, a bomber pretending to be a Taliban emissary assassinated former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in his house -- which is adjacent to the back of the U.S. embassy.
The attack Sunday began at approximately 8:00 p.m. local time, when officials in both the nearby NATO military headquarters and U.S. embassy heard gunfire. At one point, the embassy was locked down, according to a U.S. official. Afghan officials said the shooting only lasted a few minutes. A medivac helicopter evacuated the wounded American to a military hospital. His wounds are non-life-threatening, the U.S. official said.
The CIA occupied the building shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, converting a hotel for visiting dignitaries into one of the most secure compounds in Kabul. It is inside one of the heavily-guarded entrances to the presidential palace and between two NATO military bases. Nobody is allowed close to the building many still refer to as the "Arianna Hotel" without escorts and proper identification. Technically, it is known as the U.S. embassy "annex". The embassy's main building is about a quarter of a mile away.
Sunday night's attack echoed recent attacks by Afghans who have turned their guns on their international colleagues. People wearing Afghan police or army uniforms have shot foreign service members at least 11 times this year. From 2005 to 2010, only nine such incidents took place, according to the Washington, D.C.-based thinktank Brookings Institution.
The attack came on the same day that the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan submitted his recommendations for how to withdrawal 10,000 troops that President Obama has demanded leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Gen. John Allen sent his plan to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, according to a U.S. military official. The official would not detail what the recommendations were, but senior military officials have said publicly that Allen is expected to focus less on southern Afghanistan, where the U.S. has made some fragile gains in the last year, and more on eastern Afghanistan, where violence has increased.