6 Afghans die in clash with U.S. forces
American troops mistakenly killed six Afghan police and one civilian during an early morning operation Wednesday in Zabul province in what a U.S. official called a "tragic case of mistaken identity on both parts."
The incident wounded 13 other Afghans. No U.S. injuries were reported.
According to a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release, the incident occurred during a raid directed against a Taliban commander in the Qalat district, about 75 miles northeast of Kandahar.
The U.S. military said the troops fired on "an armed militant [who had] barricaded himself inside a building." That man was killed and another was captured, but "subsequently, Coalition forces received small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from a compound nearby."
The Americans returned fire and called in helicopter gunships.
"Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful," the release read. "It was later determined those firing on the [U.S.] force were ANP," it said, using the acronym for the Afghan National Police. It was the latest of several incidents in which U.S. and Afghan forces have mistakenly fired upon one another. On Oct. 22, nine Afghan soldiers were killed by a U.S. airstrike in the border province of Khost, near Pakistan.
"Coalition forces deeply regret the incident of mistaken fire," Col. Jerry O’Hara, a U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman, said Wednesday.
A joint U.S.-Afghan team will investigate the incident, O’Hara said.
According to The Associated Press, the Afghan deputy provincial police chief said the exchange of fire collapsed the police station’s roof. The AP quoted the Afghan official as saying the U.S. troops were Special Forces who "didn’t inform the police that they were going to the village."
In many parts of the country, coalition troops keep operational details from their Afghan counterparts, for fear that infiltrators could tip off targets.
Wednesday’s raid was aimed at a Taliban commander alleged to "coordinate attacks against coalition forces along Highway One," the main route in Afghanistan.
With violence in Afghanistan increasing in recent years, the U.S. military has pledged to increase its force there, and President-elect Barack Obama has promised to focus more on that conflict as the war in Iraq is brought to an end.