US soldiers in Afghanistan killed six Afghan policemen and a civilian. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)
Kabul, Afghanistan - American forces killed six Afghan police officers and one civilian Wednesday during an assault on the hideout of a suspected Taliban commander, in what a senior military spokesman called a "tragic case of mistaken identity," the authorities said. Thirteen Afghan security officers were wounded in the incident.
A statement issued jointly by the American and Afghan military commands said a contingent of police officers fired on American forces after the Americans had successfully overrun the hideout, killing the suspected Taliban commander and detaining another man.
The statement said the Americans had already entered the hideout, a building in Qalat District in Zabul Province, when they came under attack by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from "a compound nearby."
"Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful," the statement said.
The Americans, concerned about women and children hiding in the building, decided to return fire using small arms and aircraft, the statement said, offering no further details about the level of force the Americans employed.
After the firefight, the Americans discovered they had been shooting at Afghan police officers, the statement said.
But the deputy police chief of Qalat District said the police officers had been in a police station when they came under American fire, which destroyed the building.
The official, Jailoni Khan Farahi, also said that the firing against the Americans had not originated from the police station but from another nearby building. He said he did not know who was occupying the building at the time.
"Coalition forces deeply regret the incident of mistaken fire," said Col. Jerry O'Hara, an American military spokesman. "Initial reports indicate this was a tragic case of mistaken identity on both parts."
Zabul's governor, Delbar Jan Arman, said a joint Afghan and American delegation of military and civilian officials was heading to the scene to conduct an investigation.
Khalid Fazly contributed reporting.