An errant US airstrike has killed 12 Afghan National Police officers who were fighting the Taliban and wounded two others. Helmand provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said on Saturday that the death toll in Friday’s airstrike was determined after a site inspection of the compound in Gereshk District.
The Pentagon confirmed the airstrike on the Security Forces compound happened during a US-supported operation against Taliban insurgents in the area, and offered its condolences to the families of the security forces who were killed. While much of Helmand province is under the control of Taliban, Afghan national security forces have been waging fierce battles to retake territory.
Nato and US troops are in Helmand to assist Afghan troops. Mr Safi told The Associated Press that the dead were police officers who were operating with the army in the area. He said they had recaptured the post from the Taliban when the airstrike occurred.
The Helmand governor, Hayatullah Hayat, said it was believed the police officers were not in uniform, which may have resulted in mistakenly identifying them as Taliban fighters. Elsewhere in Afghanistan in northern Badakhshan province, Governor Ahmad Faisal Bigzad said on Saturday that 11 police were killed and another six wounded during a fierce battle with Taliban insurgents in the remote Tagab region.
He said another 20 members of a local police force were missing following Friday’s firefight. It was not immediately clear if they had been kidnapped or had escaped. The area in which the fighting occurred is tucked inside a mountainous region where access is restricted and even telephone contact is erratic.
And a ferocious gun battle between the Afghan army and Taliban insurgents in western Farah province has left six Afghan soldiers dead and 12 Taliban killed. The battle on Friday occurred after Taliban insurgents stormed a compound of the Afghan National Security Force in Pusht Rod district.
The fighting continued for five hours, Mohammad Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said.
A Taliban statement meanwhile claimed a victory and said 16 Afghan soldiers were killed. Taliban have in the past exaggerated their successes and the remoteness of the area made it impossible to independently verify.