Five Australian soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan within hours of one another on Wednesday and Thursday, three of them at the hands of a turncoat Afghan soldier, making it the deadliest period in a decade of fighting here for one of the United States’ staunchest allies.
Two were killed when their transport helicopter crashed. Others were injured as well in the tragedy. The cause of the crash is unknown.
The other three deaths are more ominous.
Three other soldiers were killed on Wednesday night when an Afghan soldier turned his gun on them in Oruzgan Province, the latest in a rash of insider attacks on coalition forces that have left 45 dead this year at the hands of the Afghan security forces or other Afghans working with them.
The attack happened at a fuel depot when a member of the Afghan National Army shot the Australians and then fled the base, coalition officials said. The international force command said that the motive was unclear and that it was investigating.
Australia has the largest troop presence of any non-NATO country. Last year, eleven soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.