U.S. coalition's friendly fire kills 3 Afghans
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Special Forces and their Afghan allies were involved in a pre-dawn skirmish Friday that left three friendly Afghan fighters dead from coalition fire, a U.S. Army spokesman said.
The mistaken attack occurred when a convoy of about 100 U.S. and Afghan soldiers approached a compound in the village of Khomar Kolay, near the southeastern Afghan city of Gardez. U.S. Special Forces troops suspected al Qaeda and Taliban leaders were meeting at Khomar Kolay, said Col. Roger King of the 18th Airborne Corps.
As U.S. troops approached the compound, they saw armed men carrying AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) "moving into fighting positions," King said.
"Afghan and U.S. forces did not open fire based on these initial movements, choosing instead to develop the situation," King said, reading from a statement.
Moments later, coalition forces "observed 10 to 12 additional armed men sprinting from the compound toward them in what appeared to be a flanking maneuver," he said. Coalition forces then saw a man pointing an RPG at the convoy, King said.
"The element commander perceived hostile intent and an imminent threat to his troops and he ordered his unit to open fire," King said.
After the three men were killed and two others wounded, the remaining 17 in the compound laid down their weapons. The armed men turned out to be part of another "friendly Afghan element" from another district, which the Special Forces had not known was in the area.
King expressed regret over the incident and said it was being reviewed.
"Efforts will be made to place coordination measures in effect to prevent similar occurrences," he added.
Under rules of engagement, coalition forces who perceive a threat can fire first at armed individuals.
The plan for the operation, which was based on intelligence reports, had been to arrest the suspected al Qaeda and Taliban as they departed.
The 18th Airborne Corps has been deployed to form the nucleus of Combined Joint Task Force 180, which Friday assumed command and control of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In another incident Friday morning, U.S. forces came under attack in the village of Lwara when four rockets were launched against them. Navy FA-18 fighter jets and Air Force A-10 ground attack planes were called in and struck the rocket position, officials said.
Also, a Polish officer on a mine-clearing team lost his right leg below the knee to an anti-personnel mine near the northern end of the Bagram airfield.
Capt. Leszek Stepien was attempting to clear a mine about 100 yards from a road alongside the airstrip when he triggered a second mine planted nearby. He was treated at the Spanish field hospital on Bagram Air Base.
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