US admits 'friendly fire' attack on Afghan troops

At least nine Afghan soldiers were killed by US planes in a “friendly fire” incident today.

The airstrike was in the Sayedkhail district of the south-eastern province of Khost where a coalition convoy was returning from an operation, the US military admitted.

“Initial reports from troops on the ground indicate that this may be a case of mistaken identity on both sides,” a statement said.

“At 2 am today during a bombardment of international forces, nine Afghan army soldiers were killed and three were wounded,” the Afghan defence ministry said in a statement, adding that one of the wounded soldiers was in critical condition.

Coalition forces were co-ordinating with the Afghan government for a joint investigation into the incident, the US statement said.

The Afghan defence ministry condemned the attack and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The national defence ministry condemns the attack in the strongest terms,” the statement said.

“We promise to Afghan people and national army personnel to follow the incident strictly so that the perpetrators of this action (will) be prosecuted and brought to justice under applied laws.”

The incident could strain relations between the coalition troops and Afghan army forces, who are fighting the Taliban-led insurgency in the country. Around 70,000 international troops are stationed in Afghanistan.

In a separate incident, more than 150 Taliban militants attacked Deh Rawood district headquarters in southern Uruzgan province yesterday, sparking a fierce battle with Afghan police forces.

Provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said: “Reinforcement was sent to the area and in the firefight that continued until 4 am today, more than 35 Taliban militants were killed.”

Three policemen were killed and six others were wounded in the battle, he said, adding that the rest of the militants fled the area when Nato gunship helicopters arrived at the scene.

He said 40 weapons were recovered from the militants, whose bodies were still at the site.

In the Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province yesterday Afghan army troops backed by coalition airstrikes killed or wounded an unspecified number of rebels, the defence ministry said.

The bodies of “five known Taliban members” were among those killed and recovered by the soldiers, it said.

US military also said coalition troops along with Afghan forces killed seven Taliban militants including one of their leaders in separate clashes in southern and eastern Afghanistan yesterday.

More than 4,000 people, mainly insurgents, have been killed in violence so far this year.

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