- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - Two U.S. warplanes accidentally strafed their own forces in southern Afghanistan today, killing one Canadian soldier and seriously wounding five others, NATO and the U.S. military said.

A British soldier attached to NATO was also killed in a Kabul suicide bombing, which left another four Afghans dead on Monday, NATO and Afghan officials said. Sixteen suspected Taliban militants and five Afghan police died in separate Afghan violence.

The intense fighting comes amid Afghanistan’s deadliest spate of violence since U.S.-led forces toppled the hard-line Taliban regime for hosting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks nearly five years ago.

The “friendly fire” incident occurred during a NATO-led anti-Taliban operation in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district after ground troops requested air support, NATO said.

NATO said in a statement that the International Security Assistance Force provided the support but “regrettably engaged friendly forces during a strafing run, using cannons.” It later identified the planes as U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts.

American military spokesman Sgt. Chris Miller confirmed that U.S. planes were involved and said the NATO force can request air support from the U.S.-led coalition. NATO took over command of security of the south of Afghanistan last month from the coalition.

One Canadian soldier was killed, said NATO spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy, while five were seriously wounded and evacuated out of Afghanistan for medical treatment. He did not say where they were taken. An investigation into the incident has been launched.

“It is particularly distressing to us all when, despite the care and precautions that are always applied, a tragedy like this happens,” NATO commander Lt. Gen. David Richards said.

On Sunday, four Canadian soldiers were killed and seven wounded during Operation Medusa, which aims to drive a large group of Taliban militants from Panjwayi, about 15 miles west of the main southern city of Kandahar.

In Kabul, a car driven by a suicide bomber exploded alongside a British convoy, killing one soldier and seriously wounding another, the British Ministry of Defense said.

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