Marine was killed by Afghan soldier

Posted: March 17, 2012

WASHINGTON - An Afghan soldier shot to death a 22-year-old Marine at an outpost in southwestern Afghanistan last month in a previously undisclosed case of apparent Afghan treachery that marked at least the seventh killing of an American military member by his supposed ally in the last six weeks, Marine officials said.

Lance Cpl. Edward J. Dycus of Greenville, Miss., was shot in the back of the head on Feb. 1 while standing guard at an Afghan-U.S. base in the Marja district of Helmand province. The exact circumstances have not been disclosed, but the Dycus family has been notified that he was killed by an Afghan soldier. Marine officials discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because it is still under investigation.

When the Pentagon announced Dycus' death the day after the shooting, it said he died "while conducting combat operations" in Helmand. It made no mention of treachery, which has become a growing problem for U.S. and allied forces as they work closely with Afghan forces to wind down the war.

The international military coalition reported a case of a person wearing an Afghan army uniform "turning his weapon against" a coalition service member, but it did not say the shooter was a soldier or that the victim was an American. A coalition spokesman, Army Col. Gary Kolb, said that report was mistakenly not filed among casualty reports on the coalition's website; it also suggested the shooting happened Jan. 31. The coalition has a policy of not identifying the nationality of service members killed.

The Associated Press inquired about the Dycus case after Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the top Marine commander in Afghanistan at the time, said in an AP interview March 7 that the Afghan government had been embarrassed by recent cases of Afghan soldiers turning their guns on their supposed partners.

"I had one just a month ago where a lance corporal was killed, shot in the back of the head, and the Afghan minister of defense was here the next day" to discuss custody of the shooter, Toolan said, speaking from his headquarters at Camp Leatherneck.

After a negotiation aimed at ensuring the Afghan suspect is prosecuted, the Americans turned him over to Afghan government custody, another official said.

Toolan did not further identify the victim. He mentioned the case while explaining the importance of stopping Afghan treachery as U.S. forces step back from a direct combat role in Helmand and other areas of Afghanistan to a new mission of advising and assisting Afghan forces. That role, which is in full swing in Helmand, puts U.S. and other NATO troops in closer contact with Afghans at a time when tensions between the two sides have been heightened by an American soldier's alleged killing Sunday of 16 Afghan civilians.

NATO has approved a series of measures to help reduce the risk of attacks. They include embedding counterintelligence officers in the Afghan army and its training schools to detect people behaving suspiciously, increasing the number of Afghan intelligence officers, and making sure Afghan troops are paid regularly and get regular leave. Random drug testing will also be implemented.

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