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GI's Mistakenly Attack Friendly Afghan Soldiers

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G.I.'s Mistakenly Attack Friendly Afghan Soldiers, Killing 3


AGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, May 31 — American Special Forces troops mistakenly fired on a group of friendly Afghan soldiers in a predawn firefight today in eastern Afghanistan, killing three men and wounding two other people they mistook for Qaeda fighters, American military officials said.

The brief but deadly battle occurred near Gardez. in the mountainous region straddling Pakistan, where more than 300 British marines and scores of coalition special operations forces are hunting for bands of Qaeda and Taliban fighters who seem to move with impunity across the loosely guarded border.

Gardez has also been the site of clashes between local leaders feuding for control of the provincial government. But military officials here said they had no evidence that the American troops had been tricked into attacking the compound by one faction seeking to bloody a rival.

"This would probably fall within the realm of what you would consider friendly fire," said Col. Roger King, a spokesman for the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The two wounded Afghan soldiers were flown by helicopter to Bagram, the headquarters for coalition forces in Afghanistan, and were being treated tonight at a base hospital.

Cmdr. Frank Merriman, a spokesman for Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said further details on what precisely happened would be determined by a report from the field. "A review is under way," he said, "not an investigation. It's a review that always takes place after an operation has concluded."

The accident marred the first official day on the job for the new head of coalition forces, Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, N.C.

In April, an American fighter pilot accidentally dropped a bomb on a group of Canadian soldiers who were training near Kandahar, killing four.

American officials acknowledged earlier this year that 16 Afghan fighters killed in two raids by American troops north of Kandahar were not members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda, as had been suspected.

Last year, three American soldiers were killed when a ground spotter gave his own coordinates to the bombardier aboard a B-52 bomber.

Colonel King said the American forces had been led to the compound, in Khomar Kalay village, by a "variety" of intelligence sources who indicated that a group of Taliban and Qaeda leaders were planning to meet there Thursday night.

In the early morning, about 20 American Special Forces troops, accompanied by about 80 Afghan soldiers from the Gardez area, drove up to the walled compound in trucks and sport utility vehicles, Colonel King said.

Their plan was to surround the compound and apprehend the suspects as they departed. But as the vehicles approached, men started running from the compound carrying weapons, including AK-47 rifles and at least one rocket-propelled grenade launcher, officials said.

One group of those armed men took what the Americans thought were flanking positions behind a wall, then appeared to aim a grenade launcher at the American convoy. At that point, the American commander ordered his men to open fire, Colonel King said.

The shooting was over within minutes. Seventeen others inside the compound laid down their weapons. None of the Americans or the Afghan soldiers with them were wounded.

Colonel King described the Afghan victims as loyal to the interim government of Hamid Karzai and said they appeared to have come from nearby Logar Province. He said they, too, might have received a tip that Qaeda leaders were going to meet at the compound.

Also early this morning, American F/A-18 fighter jets and A-10 attack planes bombed suspected enemy positions near the town of Lwara in eastern Afghanistan after four rockets were fired at coalition forces, officials said. No coalition troops were wounded, and American officials said they did not know whether there had been any enemy casualties.

American attacks have also been blamed for civilian deaths.

Last week, an elder in Bandi Temur village, west of Kandahar, was killed in a raid, enraging villagers.

Afghan women and children were among 14 people killed in March when American fighter aircraft attacked a vehicle traveling from a suspected Qaeda sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan.

On Dec. 20, American warplanes attacked a convoy in Paktia Province, killing as many as 50 to 60 people on the road and in surrounding villages. The Pentagon said Taliban leaders were in the vehicles, but survivors said the convoy was carrying tribal elders.

Early in the campaign in Afghanistan, an errant bomb struck the Kabul office of an operation to remove land mines, killing four people, and a bomb hit a group of houses near Kabul, also killing four people.

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This is just the bad side of war rearing it's ugly head: mistaken attacks.

It's not easy to decipher the difference out there. I mean it seems that everyone,whether they are Afghan supporter or al-Qaeda/Taliban fighter wear loose clothes, have ZZ-top beards, and carry weapons.

I love how nowadays we point out every little death detail of war, but back in WW2 or Vietnam, if we had done that, the newspaper would be flooded with mistaken "friendly" fire every damn day

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