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By Steve Herman
22 October 2008
A number of Afghan soldiers have died in a so-called friendly fire air strike in the eastern part of Afghanistan. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul that nine troops were killed and three more wounded when a U.S.-led coalition strike hit their post.
U.S.-led coalition helicopters mistakenly fired on an Afghan military checkpoint in the eastern province of Khost.
|An Afghan soldier collects a piece of the bomb used by a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Sayed Kheil area of eastern Khost province, south of Kabul, 22 Oct 2008|
The Afghan army says the soldiers were manning a checkpoint in an operation to provide security for voter registration. It says such an attack has damaged the morale of its military.
General Zahir Azimi tells VOA News that the Afghan Defense Ministry is condemning the incident in the strongest terms.
General Azimi says Afghanistan will do its utmost to bring to justice, under its laws, the culprits responsible for the deaths of its soldiers.
It would be unprecedented for foreign military personnel here to be charged by Afghan authorities in connection with such an incident.
A U.S. military spokesman says American and Afghan officials will meet to discuss the so-called "friendly fire" accident, which occurred in the early morning hours Wednesday. Both militaries say they are sending investigators to the site of the attack.
A number of civilians were killed in a western village in August by a U.S. air strike prompting strong condemnation from President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan government and military officials.
That incident and other recent wayward attacks resulted in a pledge by the U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces to be more careful during such operations which target insurgents.
Afghanistan is rebuilding its security forces with the support of the United States and other NATO countries.
Since the fall of the Taliban government seven years ago more than 80,000 Afghans have been trained for the national army. The international forces combating the Taliban in the country total 60,000 troops.
In one of the most recent significant battles, police in Uruzgan province say 35 Taliban died on Tuesday and Wednesday when their officers repulsed an attack by 100 rebel fighters in the Dih Rahwud district center. Three policemen are reported to have died in the battle which continued for several hours.