4 Afghan soldiers killed in clash with Nato forces
Four Afghan soldiers died in a clash yesterday with Nato forces who called in an airstrike after both sides mistook each other for the enemy, the Defence Ministry said, condemning the incident.
The fighting began about 3 am (2230 GMT Friday; 5:30 pm EDT Friday), in the eastern Wardak province, when a joint Nato-Afghan force traded fire with another Afghan unit already in the area. Nato troops then called in an airstrike, which killed four Afghan soldiers and wounded a number of others, the ministry said in a statement.
"Besides expressing heartfelt condolences to the families of the martyrs, the Afghan Defence Ministry is condemning this incident," it said, adding a delegation had been sent to the area to investigate. "After the investigation is completed, the Defence Ministry wants to bring those responsible to justice."
The statement confirmed earlier reports from provincial officials who said the fighting followed a misunderstanding as the joint force returned from an operation in the Sayed Abad district. Provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said seven Afghan soldiers also had been wounded.
A Nato official said earlier that a gunbattle broke out when the joint force came under fire from unknown assailants and two Afghan soldiers had been killed, but it was not immediately clear who fired on them.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to release the information ahead of an official announcement, said an investigation was under way. The conflicting casualty tolls could not immediately be reconciled.
The shooting reflects the difficulty facing foreign troops as they increasingly partner with Afghan forces with a heightened emphasis on training and an influx of 37,000 more US and allied troops.
It was the first apparent friendly fire incident since November, when eight Afghans four soldiers, three policemen and an interpreter were killed during close combat amid a search for a missing US paratrooper.
Afghanistan's Defence Ministry said at the time that the deaths had been caused by "an air attack by Nato forces" during the fighting.
Earlier a civilian was among three Americans killed in Afghanistan in an incident still under investigation, Nato said Saturday.
A brief statement from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), released late Friday, said the deaths occurred in eastern Afghanistan earlier in the day.
"Two US servicemembers and one US employee were killed today in eastern Afghanistan," it said.
An Isaf spokesman confirmed to AFP the "employee" was an American civilian but said no further information was available on what happened or where.
Large parts of eastern Afghanistan border Pakistan's volatile tribal areas and have been the scene of fierce battles between Afghan and international forces fighting for the Kabul government against insurgents led from Pakistan.