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American officials have ordered an investigation into whether friendly fire caused the deaths and injuries of Afghan forces near Kandahar, officials said Monday.

The incident happened Friday in the Zhari District after Afghan army and police forces “initiated an attack against Taliban extremists attempting to organize attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in the town of Sanigsar.”

A “fierce” close-quarters firefight ensued, and coalition forces joined the fray, according to Combined Joint Task Force-76 officials. During the fight, “[Afghan] forces reported casualties, some possibly caused by friendly forces.”

“We are investigating the incident and we will work jointly with the government of Afghanistan to determine the events that took place during this fight,” Canadian Brig. Gen. David Fraser, commander of Multi-National Brigade South, was quoted as saying in a CJTF-76 statement. “We will review all our procedures to ensure that we continue to coordinate with our Afghan partners against our common enemy.”

The investigation was ordered by U.S. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the 10th Mountain Division and CJTF-76.

According to the Canadian newspaper The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, four days before the battle, the Kandahar governor asked foreign troops for help with the attack, according to a British officer.

“Military planners decided not to support the Afghans,” the Globe and Mail reported.

During the attack, Canadian troops were called in to reinforce the Afghans. No Canadians were hurt in the battle, though various reports had as many as six Afghan police officers killed along with more than 40 insurgents.

U.S. Apache attack helicopters also were called in to the fight.

The friendly fire investigation is the second ordered in as many weeks. On April 4, military officials announced a three-nation probe into a March 29 attack on a shared base in southern Afghanistan.

The early morning attack on Forward Operating Base Robinson — in the Sangin district of Helmand province — killed one Canadian soldier and one American soldier. Several other troops were injured in the battle, which continued into the daylight hours and reportedly killed nearly three dozen insurgents. U.S., Canadian and Afghan investigators will form the investigation team, which is to issue three separate national reports, officials said.


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