Five US soldiers killed by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan
KABUL: A NATO airstrike in Afghanistan killed five US soldiers in an apparent “friendly fire” accident during clashes with insurgents, officials said Tuesday, as troops try to ensure security for the presidential election.
Local police and the Afghan Army said that the US troops, as well as one Afghan soldier, were killed in the restive province of Zabul when air support was unleashed to try to beat back Taleban fighters.
Friendly fire incidents have been rare in Afghanistan in recent years, though five Afghan soldiers were killed in a NATO air strike in the eastern province of Logar in March.
“Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in Washington.
“Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause.”
Afghanistan is braced for Saturday’s run-off presidential election — which the Taleban have vowed to target — and Monday night’s joint US-Afghan operation was tasked with boosting security ahead of polling day.
“Our forces were jointly engaged in fighting with militants. Foreign forces called in air support and they mistakenly bombed friendly positions,” said Mohsin Khan, spokesman for the Afghan Army’s 205 division.
“We also lost one solider and one was wounded.”
The US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is winding down operations in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting the Taleban, and the number of soldiers on the front line has fallen rapidly in the last year.