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US bombs kill Afghan allies for third time in three months

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Afghanistan, Jan. 21, 2019. A U.S. airstrike killed six Afghan soldiers sometime between Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, June 12, 2019, after the coalition forces mistakenly exchanged gunfire.

CLAYTON CUPIT/U.S. AIR FORCE

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 13, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. airstrike killed six Afghan soldiers between late Tuesday night and early Wednesday after an exchange of gunfire between allied forces, according to Afghan officials and statements by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

The deaths mark the third reported mistaken American bombing on Afghan troops in 92 days.

Prior to the bombing, a joint American and Afghan patrol was moving through Kunduz province late at night sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday, an Afghan defense spokesman told Stars and Stripes.

Another group of Afghan National Army soldiers saw the armed men and began firing their machine guns at the joint patrol, leading them to request air support, Army Col. David Butler, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, told the website Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

No U.S. troops were killed or wounded in the incident, Butler said.

Six Afghan soldiers died in the bombardment, Ministry of Defense spokesman Zubair Aref said.

A local government official in Kunduz disputed the number of casualties, saying that four soldiers were killed and another five were wounded.

“This operation was extensively planned and coordinated with U.S. and Afghan security forces to prevent an event like this from occurring,” Butler said, according to Task & Purpose. “We regret the tragic loss of our Afghan partners.”

The Pentagon plans on convening a joint investigation board to determine the details of the incident, according to Task & Purpose.

The incident comes less than a month after U.S. air support killed as many as 17 Afghan policemen and wounded 14 more in an incident in Helmand province.

A statement from the U.S.-led NATO Resolute Support mission said then that an Afghan unit on the ground had told coalition forces that the area was clear of friendly forces.

“Unfortunately, they were not and a tragic accident resulted,” the statement read.

In mid-March, Afghan soldiers at a checkpoint in the country’s southern Uruzgan province fired on a patrol of their own troops and American advisers, leading to a firefight and an airstrike that left at least five Afghan soldiers dead and nine wounded, military officials in Kabul said.

Both sides thought they were battling Taliban attackers, according to The New York Times.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

lawrence.jp@stripes.com
Twitter: @jplawrence3

 

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