KABUL, Afghanistan (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — Five U.S. service members and one Afghan were killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan on Monday in what could have been a mistaken bombing by their own comrades.
A statement from the international alliance said all five soldiers died on Monday after they and their Afghan counterparts came under attack and requested air support.
A U.S. military official confirmed to CBS News that all five slain troops were American, and that they might have been killed by allied forces.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a battle took place on Monday night between foreign troops and Taliban fighters in Arghandab district in southern Zabul province.
The Afghan police chief in southern Zabul province said there was a joint operation by Afghan and U.S. troops in the province earlier Monday. After that operation was over, the troops came under an attack by the Taliban in Arghandab district and called in air support, said Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay.
He told CBS News that the requested aircraft mistakenly bombed the U.S. and Afghan forces on the ground, resulting in the deaths.
In a statement released Tuesday, the International Assistance Force-Afghanistan, as the NATO coalition is formally known, also said “there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The insurgents have intensified attacks on Afghan and foreign forces ahead of the country’s presidential election runoff on Saturday. Officials are concerned there could be more violence around the balloting, though the first round in April passed relatively peacefully.
Along with the five NATO troops, an Afghan soldier also died in the fighting, said Rooghlawanay.
Separately, a NATO statement said a service member had died on Monday as a result of a non-battle injury in eastern Afghanistan.
The deaths bring to 36 the number of NATO soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, with eight service members killed in June.
Casualties have been falling in the U.S.-led military coalition as its forces pull back to allow the Afghan army and police to fight the Taliban insurgency. All combat troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from the country by the end of this year.
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