U.S. Airstrike Kills 16 Afghan Police Members

An Afghan policeman holds a rocket-propelled grenade during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Gereshk district of Helmand province Saturday. A U.S. airstrike killed 16 policemen in the area on Friday, local officials said.
Noor Mohammad/AFP/Getty Images

Afghan officials say 16 members of the Afghan National Security Forces died in a U.S. airstrike Friday, during operations against Taliban fighters in southern Helmand province. The U.S. says it is investigating the circumstances that led to the mistake.

Afghan media report that 16 members of the security force died, citing local government officials. Although a U.S. statement acknowledging the strike did not specify the number of casualties, a Pentagon spokesman later put the figure at from 12-15 deaths.

The strike hit Afghans who were in a compound that local media describe as a security outpost in a village that had come under attack by the Taliban in the Gereshk district.

From Islamabad, NPR’s Diaa Hadid reports, “The position had just been hit by airstrikes to repel Taliban fighters. An Afghan journalist in Kabul who covered the incident says local forces then rushed in and were hit by another NATO strike.”

“The U.S. Marines guiding the strike Friday afternoon in Gereshk district, thought the men gathered in the compound were Taliban, not police,” Jennifer Glasse reports from Kabul for NPR’s Newscast unit. “The checkpoint they were inspecting had changed hands a number of times during days of fighting in the south. The son of the Taliban’s leader Abdul Rahman Khalid helped launch the Taliban offensive Thursday, blowing himself up in a car bomb.”

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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell