U.S. defense officials are saying five American NATO service members were killed Monday by what is thought to be friendly-fire in southern Afghanistan.
Five servicemen were reported to have been killed by an airstrike they had called in themselves while fighting Taliban insurgents in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. A helicopter responded to the call and opened fire on the American soldiers the crew had mistaken as the targets.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi has also claimed when Taliban insurgents engaged with the coalition forces, an assault helicopter had mistaken coalition forces as Taliban members, opening fire on them.
“We had launched a clearance operation in an area with a high security threat,” Zabul police chief, General Ghulam Sakhi, whose security forces have been working with NATO, said. “When it was over and we were returning to base, the enemy opened fire and [the U.S. troops] asked for air support. The helicopters made a mistake and targeted their own people.”
Attacks from insurgent groups have increased in the country ahead of presidential runoff elections to be held this Saturday. According to CBS News, officials are worried more violent attacks could be on the way until the elections are over.
The majority of U.S. forces station in Afghanistan are no longer involved in direct conflicts in the country, but when U.S. forces are involved, usually they are Special Operation Forces. It is not uncommon for these Special Operation Forces to call in air support when under extreme pressure from attackers.
This incident has brought the total number of service members killed in Afghanistan to 36 for this year.