The Defense Department confirmed that five coalition soldiers killed in a friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan were American, but the Pentagon was mum with any other detail.
The International Security Assistance Force broke the news early Tuesday, confirming that the coalition members died in southern Afghanistan on Monday.
“The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation,” the ISAF statement said. “Our thoughts are with the families of those killed during this difficult time.”
“It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.”
The Pentagon followed up with a statement this morning.
“Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen.”
The incident raises the total death toll for ISAF forces this year in Afghanistan to 40.
“If the coalition troops were in fact killed by friendly fire, Monday’s incident would mark one of the deadliest of its kind since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001,” Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported.
Although the ISAF wouldn’t release the location, Afghan journalists said it happened in Zabul province. Another source said it happened in Arghandab district, which is outside Kandahar. Both regions are across the border from Quetta, Pakistan.