KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan soldier has been sentenced to death for killing four French troops earlier this year in eastern Afghanistan - one of the deadliest in a rising number of attacks in which Afghan forces have turned their guns on their foreign partners, a Kabul official said Tuesday.
Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said a military court in the country's capital on Monday ordered the soldier, Abdul Sabor, to be hanged. The soldier can appeal the sentence to higher courts, Azimi said. It was not clear when the soldier was convicted of the crime and Azimi did not have any other details about his case.
The four French soldiers were killed on Jan. 20 in Tagab district of Kapisa province. Just a month earlier, on Dec. 29, 2011, another Afghan soldier killed two members of the French Foreign Legion.
The French casualties prompted France's new President Francois Hollande to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan earlier than planned. The decision to put France on a fast-track exit timetable sparked consternation among some members of the U.S.-led military coalition, which is not ending its combat mission until the end of 2014.
France will pull 2,000 French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and leave around 1,400 soldiers behind to help with training and logistics.
The death of the French troops was one of the latest cases of the so-called "green-on-blue" attacks in which Afghan soldiers, or insurgents disguised in their uniforms, turn their weapons on coalition forces.
Such attacks have fueled distrust between U.S. and other foreign troops and their Afghan partners. Last year there were a total of 21 `green-on-blue' attacks that killed 35 coalition service members, according to NATO figures. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.
Besides targeting foreign forces, insurgents in Afghanistan have stepped up attacks on political and government figures.
On Monday, insurgents twice ambushed the convoy of Nuristan provincial Gov. Tamim Nuristani, but he escaped unharmed both times, said provincial spokesman Mohammad Zareen.
The first ambush came as the convoy was traveling to Wama district where the governor was inaugurating a road. After a brief gunbattle, the insurgents pulled back. The convoy was later attacked again when the governor was en route to Parun district. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded in the fight that followed.
Also on Monday, a magnetic bomb attached to the vehicle of the chief of Khan Abad district of Kunar province exploded, killing one policeman and wounding eight civilians, said provincial spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini. The district governor was not in the vehicle when the bomb detonated.
And on Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up among guests at a wedding hall in northern Afghanistan, killing 23 people, including a prominent ex-Uzbek warlord-turned-lawmaker who was the father of the bride. Three Afghan security force officials were among those killed. The day before, two government officials were assassinated - the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs director in Laghman province and the mayor of Shindand district in Herat province
President Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban, but he warned insurgents on Tuesday that their attacks on civilians would not be forgotten by the Afghan people.
"We want peace and we are trying to bring peace, but those behind the attacks should know that whomever they kill on this soil - whenever they martyr an elder, whenever they martyr a lawmaker, a leader, whenever they martyr a cleric, a teacher, a father, a woman and especially when they martyr a child - it will remain in our mind and it will not be forgotten," Karzai said in Kabul at a graduation ceremony for 535 policemen.
Karzai added: `These graduates will ask them one day: `Why did you kill all these innocent people?'"
Just a few hours before Karzai spoke, two Afghan police and three civilians were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Bati Kot district of eastern Nangarhar province, provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said. The police vehicle had stopped to offer a ride to an elderly man, a woman and a child before their vehicle hit the bomb, he said.
Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann in Kabul contributed to this report.