Nato attack kills five Afghan troops

Eight more injured in air strike that will inflame tensions between foreign military alliance and Hamid Karzai

Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul

6 March 2014

A Nato air strike has killed at least five Afghan soldiers and injured eight others in one of the worst friendly fire incidents of the war and a fresh blow to strained ties between Kabul and Washington.

The men died during an operation in eastern Logar province in the early hours of Thursday morning, Nato said. A spokesman for the provincial governor said the bomb hit an army checkpoint, even though such outposts are usually marked on foreign military maps of Afghanistan.

The bodies of the five dead had been brought to Kabul, the ministry of defence said, and the injured were receiving treatment. Nato said the killings were accidental and investigators were looking at how the checkpoint ended up being targeted.

"We can confirm that at least five Afghan national army personnel were accidentally killed this morning during an operation in eastern Afghanistan," the International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

"An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident ... We value the strong relationship with our Afghan partners and we will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again."

The deaths are likely to stir tensions in Afghanistan, where there has been widespread anger at civilian deaths from bombs dropped by drones and combat planes. President Hamid Karzai has been one of the fiercest critics of aerial bombardments and has banned them near homes and villages. He did not immediately comment on Thursday's deaths.

Government troops are increasingly exposed as western combat forces head home. The Logar bombing came a couple of weeks after a Taliban attack killed 21 soldiers in another part of eastern Afghanistan.

This is the first time an air strike has killed so many Afghan soldiers but friendly fire attacks have been a problem throughout the war. In one of the worst incidents in 2007 a US helicopter gunship mowed down 11 Afghan police. [1]

Nor have foreign soldiers been immune. In 2002 a US friendly fire attack killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others; more recent cases included the 2009 shooting of a British soldier by a US helicopter. [2] Perhaps most famously the football star Pat Tilman was killed by friendly fire [3] in an incident the US military initially tried to cover up.

Mokhtar Amiri contributed to this report