(CNN) – Five American service members were killed in southern Afghanistan. Officials said Tuesday that a coalition jet, called in to help ward off a Taliban attack, mistakenly bombed them.
According to NATO, the troops were conducting a security operation ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential run-off election, which will take place Saturday.
The five US Special Forces troops were killed on a security operation in advance of Saturday’s presidential runoff election. Working in southern Afghanistan’s often violent Zabul province, the Americans, along with Afghan forces, ran into militants. A firefight ensued and they called for air support.
It’s now suspected that an Air Force B-1 bomber that responded may have dropped its weapons accidentally on the US troops.
The incident is being investigated.
“We do have reason to suspect that friendly fire was the cause here, specifically friendly fire from the air. But the issue is under investigation.”
There have been at least five major so-called “friendly fire” incidents since the war began in 2001.
Among the most well-known: the 2004 death of Pat Tillman. Tillman gave up a lucrative contract with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals to join the Army’s elite Rangers force.
He was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest combat decoration, after the Army said he was killed leading a counterattack against enemy forces.
Only later did the Army admit he had been shot accidentally by his comrades in the firefight.
The incident comes soon after President Obama’s announcement that US troops will be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2016.