An errant US air strike has killed Afghan police in the southern province of Helmand, the US military and local officials said.
The air strike on a compound took place on Friday afternoon after Afghan police had retaken a checkpoint captured by the Taliban a day earlier in Gereshk district, north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
Abdul Ghafar Safi, the provincial police chief, told Al Jazeera that at least 12 police were killed – two of whom were commanders – and more were wounded.
A statement from the US military confirmed the killings, saying, “aerial fires resulted in the deaths of the friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound”.
There were conflicting reports over the number of officers killed.
The US military did not provide the number of casualties.
Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand, told Al Jazeera that at least three people were killed and that an investigation has been launched.
“An accurate number of casualties and details of the incident will be announced later but we can confirm that at least three Afghan police were killed and there are chances the numbers could be more,” Zwak said.
“It was most probably a miscommunication or the coordinates were not correct, which resulted in the US air strikes.”
‘We are not winning in Afghanistan right now’
The deaths of Afghan police came amid increased fighting in Helmand, a southern province.
The US has carried out 52 air strikes in Helmand over the past five days, including 10 in Gereshk on Thursday, according to the US military headquarters in Kabul.
Friday’s incident underlines the complicated security situation in Afghanistan as President Donald Trump’s administration weighs sending more troops as part of a new strategy for the region.
Earlier this week, Afghan security forces backed by US air strikes retook Nawa district south of Lashkar Gah.
On Thursday, fighters attacked security perimeters set up around Gereshk, blowing up three captured Humvees packed with explosives.
The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years.
In June, Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary, said: “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.”
Source: Al Jazeera News