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Friendly Fire Suspected in Deaths of 5 US Troops in Afghanistan

VOA News
Afghan officials say five U.S. troops killed Monday in southern Afghanistan were fired on by mistake in a coalition air strike.

Zabul province police chief Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay told reporters Tuesday that coalition forces were completing a security operation in Zabul's Arghandab district when militants ambushed them. An Afghan military commander in Zabul said in an interview with VOA's Afghan service that the combined Afghan and NATO forces called in air support, but the air support mistakenly fired on them.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Tuesday "investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause" of the five Americans' deaths.

Afghan army officials say an Afghan soldier was also killed in the incident.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, confirmed insurgents attacked coalition forces in Zabul late Monday.

Violence has been ongoing in the run-up to Afghanistan's presidential run-off vote Saturday.

On Tuesday militants kidnapped more than 30 Kandahar University teachers in southern Ghazni province. One teacher was reportedly wounded in the hostage-taking.

In a separate incident Tuesday, gunmen attacked and killed eight mine removal experts working for the Afghan non-governmental organization Mine Detection Center.

Officials say the demining experts were attacked while traveling in an official vehicle to their work site in Lugar province, south of the capital, Kabul.

Deen Mohammad Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack took place in broad daylight.

"Today, before noon, around 11 a.m., members of the MDC demining team working in Mohammad Agha district were traveling to work when they were attacked by insurgents. Eight were killed and three others wounded," he said.

The Taliban has vowed to step up attacks ahead of the run-off vote.

Polling is taking place because there was no clear winner in the April 5 election.

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is considered the frontrunner.  He received 45 percent of the vote in April.  He will face Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official.

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