Five US troops were killed in one of the worst friendly fire incidents of the war in Afghanistan, according to officials, who added that an apparent coalition airstrike gone wrong was responsible for the casualties.
A statement released on Tuesday indicated that the US troops were killed on Monday in what an official said was an airstrike in the southern province of Zabul. No further official details were given.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said:
“Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan. Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen.”
In an earlier statement, coalition officials said:
“The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation.”
If this was indeed a coalition airstrike, it would be one of the most tragic friendly fire incidents of the war in Afghanistan, which started shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
In April 2002, four Canadian troops were killed by an American F-16 jet fighter, which dropped a bomb on a group of soldiers while they were participating in night firing exercises in southern Kandahar.
According to police in Zabul, the five US troops were killed when they requested close air support for their mission.
Provincial police chief General Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay recounted the events on Monday:
“After the operation was over on the way back, the joint forces came under the attack of insurgents, and then foreign forces called for air support. Unfortunately five NATO soldiers and one Afghan army officer were killed mistakenly by NATO air strike.”
There is no independent confirmation of Rooghlawanay’s statement from NATO Headquarters in Brussels or the coalition.
— Pat Novak (@PatNovak_GCN) June 10, 2014
At the moment, most of the US troops left in Afghanistan are Special Operations units tasked with training the local forces and they frequently come under fire. When this occurs, they are responsible for calling in air support, but due to the strict regulations implemented by Afghan President Hamid Karzai — for the withdrawal of US forces from the country — that only happens when the troops are at risk of being killed.
In other news from Afghanistan, one NATO soldier died in an unrelated non-combat incident, bringing the total of coalition deaths on Monday to six.
[Image via Yahoo]