Five U.S. troops and one Afghan Army soldier died in a possible friendly fire incident in Afghanistan Monday, with Special Operations forces among the victims, military officials said today.
The incident marks one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents since the Afghan mission began in 2001.
The troops were in the Arghandab district of Zabul Province performing a joint operation when they came under enemy fire, officials say. The U.S. forces called in an airstrike but a miscommunication resulted in the blast striking too close, killing them, officials say. A B-1 bomber, which only the U.S. flies, made the drop, two American officials said.
Through it's National Security Council, the White House said the Department of Defense is "looking into what happened."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
One of the fallen has been identified by his family as 19-year-old Aaron Toppen.
"Aaron was a funny, caring, loving kid," Toppen's sister, Amanda Gralewski, told The Chicago Sun-Times. "He loved to fish. He loved his friends. He loved being outdoors. He loved his family. He would give the shirt off his back for anyone."
A second was identified by his cousin as Justin Helton, 25. His cousin said the young man's parents were informed of their son's death by military representatives at their home in Beaver, Ohio, early today.
Mindy Helton told The Associated Press her cousin specialized in dealing with explosives and was based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She said he had been in Afghanistan for about two months and was engaged to be married.
"He was a great boy, so full of life and outgoing," she said. "He loved hunting and the outdoors."
The military has not released the identities of the other casualties.