U.S. defense officials say several bombs missed their intended targets in Afghanistan, but deny reports that a hospital was struck in the western part of the country. Officials also say U.S. helicopters came under fire inside neighboring Pakistan, but there was no damage or casualties.
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke denied that U.S. bombs had struck a hospital in the town of Herat, in western Afghanistan. But she said that a bomb from a U.S. Navy warplane hit near what she described as a "senior citizens center" on Sunday.
In the daily briefing for reporters Tuesday, Ms. Clarke said the system that is supposed to guide the weapon to its target failed, detonating the bomb in an area near the home.
"Although the details are being investigated, preliminary indications are that the weapons guidance system malfunctioned," she said. "As we always say, we regret any loss of civilian life. U.S. forces are intentionally striking only military and terrorist targets," she said. "We take great care in our targeting process to avoid civilian casualties."
A United Nations spokeswoman said a U.S. bomb hit a military hospital on the edge of Herat. Afghanistan's ruling Taleban government also claims a hospital was hit.
Because the area is off limits to observers, the competing claims cannot be independently verified. Ms. Clarke added that another Navy aircraft missed its target and dropped two bombs in a residential area in the capital city of Kabul.
Ms. Clarke said two U.S. helicopters came under hostile fire from unknown sources inside Pakistan on Saturday. The helicopters were trying to retrieve the wreckage of another helicopter that had crashed during a commando raid. No U.S. forces were hurt during the incident.
U.S. officials also say the wreckage claimed by Taleban forces to be part of a downed U.S. helicopter, is part of landing gear that was sheared off as the helicopter flew at treetop level while returning from a raid.
Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, deputy operations director for the U.S. miltary Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes it as an "irregular but not uncommon air event." Officials dismiss the Taleban claim to have shot down a helicopter as blatantly false.