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Afghan rockets hit US army chief's plane

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Rocket fire that struck a US base in Afghanistan on Monday night has damaged the aircraft of the top-ranking US military officer and injured two members of the maintenance crew.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was not near the aircraft at the time of the attack and no one was injured, Jamie Graybeal, NATO spokesman, said.

Colonel Dave Lapan, Dempsey's spokesman, said on Tuesday that two rockets struck Bagram airbase, outside the capital Kabul, and one damaged Dempsey's C-17, a large transport aircraft.

Shrapnel from the rocket struck the door of the C-17 and left two crew members with minor injuries.

The attack posed no threat to the safety of Dempsey or his staff, who were asleep in their quarters at the time of the incident, officers said.

Although sporadic shelling of Bagram is not uncommon, Taliban fighters rarely manage to inflict serious damage or casualties at the base.

Dempsey left by Tuesday morning, though it was unclear if he left on the same aircraft.

He had been visiting Kabul to meet commanders of the coalition force and Afghan officers amid a surge in assaults by Afghan security personnel on their international colleagues.

Ten soldiers, mostly Americans, have lost their lives at the hands of their Afghan allies in the past two weeks, and the attacks have caused almost one in every four coalition deaths in the war so far this month.

NATO and American officers have suggested the Afghan government has failed  to come to grips with the problem but Dempsey said he came away "reassured" after discussions with his Afghan counterpart, General Shir Mohammad Karimi.

"I am reassured that the Afghan leaders, military and civilian, understand how important this moment is," Dempsey said.


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