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FRIENDLY FIRE KILLS 9 AFGHAN SOLDIERS

In the most lethal friendly fire incident in more than a year, Afghan authorities said coalition forces accidentally bombed an Afghan army checkpoint Wednesday, killing nine soldiers and injuring three others.

U.S. military officials acknowledged in a statement that American troops "may have mistakenly killed or injured" Afghan soldiers in Khowst province, southeast of the capital, Kabul. The incident is under investigation, said Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews.

The strike took place before dawn as a U.S. convoy was returning from a mission. The American statement suggested that the convoy had come under fire previously, saying it was "involved in multiple engagements."

The circumstances of Wednesday's strike suggested that U.S. troops might have been unaware of the presence of the Afghan army checkpoint, which had been in place on the main highway in the area for 10 days, according to Arsallah Jamal, the governor of Khowst. He said Afghan soldiers had done nothing to provoke the attack. "One thing is very clear: The (Afghan troops) did not fire at the coalition forces. They tried to flash their vehicles' lights to show they were friendly forces, but unfortunately this did not work."

Taliban leader killed:U.S. forces announced Wednesday that a Taliban leader, Mullah Ghafar, was killed in an airstrike Monday in Helmand province.

U.S. hostage freed

U.S. Special Forces soldiers conducting a daring nighttime operation freed a kidnapped American working for the Army Corps of Engineers - the first known rescue by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The American, who was abducted in mid August, was held in an insurgent stronghold 30 miles west of Kabul, officials said. They would not release his identity for safety reasons.

Associated Press

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