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Officials Launch Probe Into Afghanistan Firefight

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009 – An investigation is under way into a firefight in the Khowst district of Afghanistan’s Khowst province overnight, as U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials acknowledged today that the people killed were not enemy fighters.

A news release issued soon after the incident had reported that four enemy fighters were killed and two others were wounded.

But initial subsequent inquiries suggest that a local family near the targeted enemy's location -- not the enemy fighters the force was looking for -- fired upon the combined forces, officials said. The combined forces returned fire, killing two men and two women and wounding two women. A U.S. Forces Afghanistan statement also acknowledged the possibility that an infant also was killed.

The statement said coalition and Afghan forces officials do not believe the family was involved with militant activities. They were defending their home against an unknown threat, the statement continued, adding that coalition forces are working closely with local officials and family members to express condolences and provide assistance.

"We deeply regret the tragic loss of life in this precious family. Words alone cannot begin to express our regret and sympathy, and we will ensure the surviving family members are properly cared for," Army Brig. Gen. Michael A. Ryan of U.S. Forces Afghanistan said.

In other news from Afghanistan, Afghan and coalition forces killed six militants and detained another during an operation last night to continue to dismantle Taliban operations in Kandahar province. Combined forces were targeting a compound in the province’s Maywand district to disrupt a Taliban cell known for targeting Afghan and coalition troops when four armed militants from a nearby compound ran to a nearby irrigation ditch. The militants maneuvered against the forces who returned fire, killing them.

Concurrently, Afghan forces called for all noncombatants to leave the buildings. Shots were fired near one of the buildings, and two enemy combatants barricaded themselves inside. The militants remained noncompliant when Afghan forces told them to come out of the building, so the assault force entered and killed both militants when they attempted to engage the force. One suspect was detained without incident.

Forces found bomb-making materials and about 30 pounds of opium, which were destroyed along with AK-47 assault rifles used against the forces during the engagement. Five women and 12 children were protected.

In other operations:

-- Three militants were killed in an artillery and air strike in a rural area of Wardak province southwest of Maydan Shar yesterday after they fired mortar rounds at U.S. forces. There are no reports of civilian injuries or coalition casualties.

-- Afghan forces, assisted by coalition troops, killed six insurgents and destroyed a weapons cache in the Shaheed Hasas district of Oruzgan province yesterday. The combined forces were on patrol when they identified six armed men planting explosives and constructing an ambush site. The combined force engaged the militants with mortar fire, killing all six. A search of the area uncovered bomb-making materials, small arms, homemade explosives, ammunition, detonators and 10 mortar rounds, which were destroyed in place.

-- Afghan and coalition forces killed four militants and detained two suspects April 7 during a raid in Kandahar province that targeted Taliban operatives linked to a bomb-making cell. The combined force raided a compound in the Maywand district where Taliban operatives were gathered. Several men ran into a building when the assault force arrived. When Afghan forces called for all occupants to come out of the buildings, four militants tried to barricade themselves inside. With women and children out of the buildings and in a safe location, the assault force began to search the buildings and encountered the noncompliant men. Four militants were killed during the engagement. Two suspected militants in another building were detained without incident. One man, four women and eight children were protected in the operation.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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