NATO has announced that all foreign adivsers will be pulled out of their posts in Kabul.
The announcement came hours after the shooting on Saturday of two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) military advisers in the Ministry of Interior in Kabul city.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting live from the Afghan capital, said the withdrawal of hundreds of military and civilian advisers is a sign that NATO feels “no place is secure for any of their advisers” in Afghanistan.
In a statement, General John R Allen, ISAF commander, said that “for obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera TV, ISAF spokesperson, Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said the adviser pull out was a logical and necessary step to “account for all our personnel … and bring them into their safe housing areas” in and around the Afghan capital.
The two American service members were inside a room in the ministry’s command and control complex used only by foreign advisers. The only Afghans with access to that area are translators, Afghan officials said.
The interior ministry issued a statement confirming that two of the ministry’s international colleagues were killed and that an investigation had been launched.
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Additional reports claimed the men were US military officers serving as ISAF trainers.
A statement issued by NATO said “initial reports indicate an individual turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in Kabul city today, killing two service members”.
Our correspondent said ISAF has closed off access to their command and control centre where the two bodies were found.
Of the shootings themselves, Allen said “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”.
“Afghans have no part in the investigation into the deaths of the two senior advisers”, said our correspondent.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the gunman was a man named Abdul Rahman. Mujahid said an accomplice inside the ministry helped Rahman gain access to the building.
Although official reports say two military advisers were shot, the Taliban, known to exaggerate tolls from attacks for which they take credit, claimed four high-ranking advisers were killed.
“After the attack, Rahman informed us by telephone that he was able to kill four high-ranking American advisers,” Mujahid said. The Taliban frequently exaggerate casualty claims.
In a post on his official twitter account, Captain John Kirby, a US defence spokesman, said there has been “lots of speculation on today’s attack in Kabul. We do not know who killed [two] ISAF members or why”.
The shooting comes on the fifth day of protests across the nation sparked by the burning of Qurans at a US base.
Also on Saturday, at least four protesters were killed and 34 wounded as Afghans held protests for the fifth straight day against the burning of the Quran at a US-led base in the country, hospital officials have told Al Jazeera.
Three of the protesters were killed at a protest outside a United Nations compound in Kunduz province on Saturday morning, hospital officials said, adding that 30 other demonstrators were wounded in that protest.
The demonstration on Saturday had initially been peaceful, but turned violent after protesters threw stones at government buildings and the UN office, said Sarwer Hussaini, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said police had fired into the air to disperse protesters.
Denise Jeanmonod, a spokeswoman for UNAMA, the United Nations’ Mission in Afghanistan, confirmed the incident, saying that the organisation was “assessing the situation at the scene”.
Elsewhere on Saturday, one protester was killed and four others wounded during a protest in Logar province, south of Kabul, after hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets and clashed with security forces.
Protests also erupted in several other provinces on Saturday, with demonstrations reported in Sar-e-pol and Nangarhar provinces. In Laghman province, a protest reportedly turned violent when an estimated 1,000 protesters threw rocks at police and attempted to storm the governor’s house.
There were reports of casualties at that protest, but there was no immediate confirmation on the number of wounded.
On Friday, protests across the country led to the deaths of 11 Afghans, including a protester who was shot dead in the capital Kabul. It was the deadliest day of protests since demonstrations began five days ago.
Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, ISAF Spokesperson, said the response to the now five day-long protests was managed by “a police force that showed extreme skill and capability this week”.
Saturday’s deaths bring the five-day total to over 30 people killed, including two US soldiers who were shot dead on Thursday in eastern Afghanistan.