NATO forces accidentally bombed Afghan National Army forces in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, killing five and wounding at least eight others, according to Afghan officials.
The incident is likely to further jeopardize the already shaky alliance between the Afghan government and the West.
Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said on Twitter that the International Security Assistance Force bombed Afghan soldiers in central Logar province at 3:30 am. He added that the defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, was deeply affected and sympathized with the victims’ families.
A statement from the Defense Ministry said the dead and wounded had been transferred to nearby Kabul.
ISAF confirmed five Afghan soldiers were “accidentally killed,” but did not say how.
“An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident,” ISAF said in a release, which also offered condolences.
“We value the strong relationship with our Afghan partners, and we will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again,” the statement said.
The New York Times reported that the bombing was a drone strike in Charkh district, which has long been a hotbed of insurgent activity. However, the Reuters news agency cited local officials as saying it was an air strike.
Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the governor of Logar, speculated that poor coordination could have caused the accident, but said the circumstances are still unclear.
As for NATO’s condolences, he said, “The Afghans cannot accept such apologies anymore, because such things are continuously happening.”
The accident comes at a tense period in Afghan-American relations. President Hamid Karzai has stalled for months on signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would let NATO troops stay in the country past the end of 2014.
In January, the Times reported Karzai blames the U.S. for plotting insurgent-style attacks to weaken the Afghan government, including a bloody attack early this year on expatriates at a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul that was claimed by the Taliban.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.