Five U.S. soldiers have been killed recently in Afghanistan, the result of what might have been friendly fire from an American airplane. The deaths, if confirmed, would constitute the worst case of friendly fire in the war so far.
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Five American soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says the deaths were likely the result of friendly fire from a U.S. warplane. If confirmed, that would make it the worst case of friendly fire involving coalition forces in the Afghan war. NPR's Tom Bowman reports.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: The American soldiers were on patrol with Afghan forces on Monday in the dangerous Arghandab district, not far from the southern city of Kandahar. It was a security sweep to get ready for Afghanistan's presidential runoff election. A local police official said just as they completed their mission, they were ambushed by the Taliban. The American troops called in an airstrike which apparently struck them by accident. Here's Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby.
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ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: We do have reason to suspect that friendly fire was the cause here, specifically friendly fire from the air. But the issue's under investigation and I really don't want to get too much more down in detail into that.
BOWMAN: Officials said those killed were Special Forces or green berets. Most of the 32,000 American troops now in Afghanistan stay on their bases training Afghan forces and rarely venture out. But these Army commandos continue to patrol with their Afghan counterparts, often into the country's most violent areas.
Over the last year, the American death toll from hostile fire has dropped sharply as Afghan security forces have taken over more of the security burden. The worst confirmed friendly fire incident occurred in April of 2002 when four Canadians were killed on a training maneuver in southern Afghanistan. An American F-16 mistakenly dropped bombs on their location.
In the previous December, not far from Kandahar, an American B-52 bomber dropped a 2,000 pound bomb that killed three American green berets. The blast was so powerful that even at a distance, shrapnel slightly wounded the men they were helping to protect - Hamid Karzai - who would go on to lead the country.
Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.