KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. forces mistakenly killed seven Afghan police and wounded four in an apparent friendly fire incident early Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.Police manning a remote checkpoint in Nangarhar province said an American convoy backed by helicopters approached and opened fire despite their protests and calls for them to stop.
“I thought they were Taliban, and we shouted at them to stop, but they came closer and they opened fire,” said Khan Mohammad, one of the policemen at the post. “I’m very angry. We are here to protect the Afghan government and help serve the Afghan government, but the Americans have come to kill us.”
The commander at the post, Esanullah, who goes by one name, said a helicopter fired rockets, killing seven policemen and wounding four.
A spokeswoman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said she had no information that U.S. forces that fall under ISAF’s command were involved. A spokesman for the separate U.S.-led coalition said he was looking into the report.
There were conflicting reports over how the fighting started.
Zurmai Khan, the Khogyani district chief, said fighting started just before midnight Monday between Taliban militants and Afghan police, and two hours into the battle U.S. forces arrived and opened fire on the police.
However, Esanullah and Noragha Zowak, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, said no Taliban were involved in the incident.
Khan labeled the incident a “misunderstanding.”
“Unfortunately the Americans and the Afghans, the two sides didn’t know it was the other,” said Zowak.
Meanwhile, three Afghan civilians were killed and two wounded in the eastern province of Kunar on Monday after a car drove through an ISAF checkpoint and soldiers opened fire on it, ISAF said. The car drove through the checkpoint despite the use of hand gestures and flashing lights, ISAF said.
A roadside bomb attack 25 miles north of Kandahar city on Monday killed a Canadian soldier. The soldier, identified as Trooper Darryl Caswell of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was the 57th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, the Canadian military said.
The death brings to at least 78 the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, including at least 39 Americans.
Violence has spiked in Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 2,300 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on U.S., NATO and Afghan figures.
In the east, in Paktia province, Afghan police and U.S.-led coalition troops acting on a tip discovered rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and bomb-making materials hidden under two animal pens in an Afghan home. Militants fired machine guns and RPGS at the troops when they first entered the home, the coalition said in a statement.
The coalition said that local elders “vowed to track down” the bomb maker.