US air strike blunder kills nine Afghan soldiers

US-led coalition forces have mistakenly killed nine Afghan soldiers in an air strike, the Afghan defence ministry said today.

The overnight attack on an Afghan army checkpoint in the Syed Kheil area of the eastern Khost province also wounded another three troops, according to the regional governor, Arsallah Jamal.

“Nine have been martyred, three wounded, one critically, in the attack by international forces,” said ministry spokesman Zaher Azimi.

The Afghan defence ministry condemned the attack, warning that such incidents would weaken the spirit of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and undermine its relations with the US troops who train the force.

The US military said its forces “may have mistakenly killed and injured” Afghan soldiers in what may have been a case of mistaken identity “on both sides”.

“As a coalition convoy was returning from a previous operation, they were involved in multiple engagements. As a result of the engagements, ANA soldiers were killed and injured,” the military said in a statement.

Colonel Greg Julian, the chief spokesman for US troops in Afghanistan, said military officials would meet their Afghan counterparts to “sort out the details”.

Afghan officials have warned that, with scores of Afghan civilians having been killed in air strikes by Nato-led and US coalition forces, there is a growing perception that international forces do not take enough care when mounting the attacks.

Meanwhile, 35 Taliban fighters and three Afghan police were killed in a two-day battle in the country’s southern Uruzgan province that ended early today.

Juma Gul Himat, Uruzgan’s provincial police chief, said the battle was led by Afghan forces but involved helicopter gunships from the international military coalition.

David Batty and agencies
Wednesday October 22 2008 10.36 BST

Source: Guardian

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