Friendly airstrike kills 17 Afghan policemen

Friendly airstrike kills 17 Afghan policemen

Colonel David Butler, a spokesman for US Forces- Afghanistan, said that during heavy fighting with the Taliban near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, the Afghan National Defense Security Forces requested the US precision air support.

The strike was conducted as Afghan police were fighting the Taliban outside Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand province, with Afghan officials describing the incident as a "mistake". While scores of insurgents were killed, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation strike also killed eight policemen by mistake.

The police officer, Haji Gran Habib, was a former Taliban fighter who had joined the government side 17 years ago, said Maj.

An American military spokesman called the deaths a "tragic accident" that occurred after Afghan security forces requested U.S. air support for an operation against the Taliban. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has not commented on the incident. Helmand's governor, Mohammad Yasin, says the airstrike is being investigated.

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Thursday's attack comes about two months after miscommunication led to a USA airstrike that killed at least five Afghan soldiers and wounded nine others at a checkpoint in neighboring Uruzgan province, another area of heavy Taliban activity.In that March incident, a firefight had erupted after soldiers at a checkpoint began shooting at a patrol of their own troops, who were accompanied by American advisers on a planned nighttime raid outside the provincial capital Tirin Kot.

"They reported and confirmed the areas were clear of friendly forces".

"Unfortunately, they were not and a tragic accident resulted", Butler said in a written reply to a request for information on the deaths.

A far deadlier incident that took more than 40 civilian lives occurred in October 2015 in northern Kunduz city, in which a ferocious battle was underway with Taliban insurgents for control of the area. A quarterly estimate by the United Nations issued recently said more civilians were killed by Afghan and U.S. forces than by insurgents in the first months of 2019.

Butler said the US and Afghan security forces were examining the "miscommunication" to ensure it didn't happen again.According to US Air Force Central Command, the US dropped 7,362 bombs in Afghanistan in 2018, the highest number since at least 2010.

Incidents known as "friendly fire" are not unheard of in Afghanistan, and have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign forces.

Afghanistan's largest private TV station, Tolo News, reported 17 police officers were killed and 11 others wounded.

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