Wed, Jun 13, 2007 - Page 5 News List

US forces kill seven police with friendly fire in Afghanistan

AGENCIES , KABUL

US forces mistakenly killed seven Afghan police and wounded four in an apparent friendly-fire incident early yesterday in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.

Police manning a remote checkpost in Nangarhar Province said a US 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 (ISAF) said she had no information that US forces under ISAF command were involved.

About 50,000 foreign troops led by the US military and NATO are in Afghanistan, battling a resurgent Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.

There were conflicting reports over how the fighting started.

Khogyani district chief Zurmai Khan said fighting started just before midnight on Monday between Taliban militants and Afghan police, and US forces arrived and opened fire on the police two hours later.

However, Esanullah and Noragha Zowak, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, said that no Taliban were involved in the incident.

BRUNT

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan worsened in the last year and that civilians are bearing the brunt of attacks.

"Civilians suffer horribly from mounting threats to their security," said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of ICRC operations.

The agency said that since last year the violence had significantly intensified in some areas, bringing a "growing number of civilian casualties."

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, ISAF said.

A roadside bomb attack 40km 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.

Violence has spiked in Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 2,300 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an AP count based on US, NATO and Afghan figures.

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