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Death Toll from US strike on Afghan police hits 16: Officials



Local Afghan officials have revised upwards the death toll from a US air strike in southern province of Helmand, saying 16 police forces have lost their lives in what is said to be a friendly-fire incident there.

Provincial police spokesman Salam Afghan said the incident took place on Friday evening when Afghan police forces were clearing a village in Helmand’s Gereshk district of Taliban militants.

“In the strike, 16 Afghan policemen were killed including two commanders. Two other policemen were wounded.”

Omar Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand’s governor, also confirmed the aerial strike and gave the same account. Early reports after the raid had put the death toll at 15.

Confirming the Friday airstrike on Afghan national security forces, the Pentagon described the attack as a friendly-fire incident and issued a statement of condolences for the victims.

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident,” the statement said, noting that there would be an investigation into the matter.

Afghan national security forces have been engaged in fierce clashes to retake Helmand Province as much of its territory is under the control of Taliban.

The militant group, the target of a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, has managed to gain more footholds across the country over the past years and is thought to be in control of at least 40 percent of territories.

US Marines salute during a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Airstrikes by US warplanes have also significantly increased in recent months against the purported positions of the Taliban militant group and other terror outfits in the crisis-hit country. US President Donald Trump is also considering requests from military commanders for thousands more international troops.

In May, American officials said the US military needed between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, in Afghanistan.

The United States currently has about 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with another 5,000 troops from NATO allies

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