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NATO Says 1 Killed in `Friendly Fire' Strike

September 04, 2006|From the Associated Press

PASHMUL, Afghanistan — NATO warplanes killed one of the force's own soldiers and wounded several others in a "friendly fire" incident in southern Afghanistan today, NATO said in a statement.

The incident occurred during a NATO-led anti-Taliban operation in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district where a major Afghan-NATO offensive has killed more than 200 militants in southern Afghanistan, according to NATO.

Four Canadian soldiers also were reported killed during the fighting Saturday and Sunday.

The offensive was launched Saturday to flush out Taliban fighters from Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari district. NATO spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan forces had gained ground and had disrupted the militants' command and control.

If confirmed, the casualty count would be one of the highest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime five years ago.

Authorities have barred civilians from most roads through this part of Kandahar province, and the battlefield could not be reached by reporters.

Earlier, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said NATO and Afghan forces had launched about 40 artillery attacks and airstrikes.

He said 89 militants and an unknown number of civilians had died during the two days of fighting.

He cited intelligence reports but did not elaborate on how the number was obtained.

Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said the Taliban casualties were high, but could not confirm the NATO report of more than 200 dead.

About 80 suspected Taliban fighters were arrested by Afghan police and 180 fled, NATO said.

The fatalities pushed the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year to 142, surpassing the 130 killed in all of 2005.

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