World News

U.S. Bombs Afghan Militia Behind Insider Attack, Officials Say

Posted January 11, 2018 4:20 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2018 4:26 p.m. EST

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The U.S. military bombed members of an Afghan government militia who were on the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 13 fighters after at least one opened fire on U.S. Special Forces soldiers deployed there, Afghan officials said Thursday.

While some Afghan officials said at least two U.S. soldiers were killed in what was described as an insider attack by friendly forces, Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said only one U.S. service member had been wounded.

Gresback would not say whether the service member had been wounded by friendly fire, or whether the United States had bombed the militia afterward.

The episode unfolded in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, the stronghold of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan. Over the past year, Afghan forces, with the help of U.S. Special Forces units and air power, have tried to wipe out the group there, but it has been an uphill task because the Afghan government has had little control in the area for many years. Every time the Islamic State has been squeezed in Achin, the fighters have shifted to a neighboring district.

Nangarhar has been the deadliest province for U.S. forces in the past year. Eight U.S. service members have been killed in the province over the past nine months.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said local militiamen fighting on behalf of the government had gotten into a verbal clash with the Americans before a shootout erupted.

“There was a bombardment also,” Khogyani said. “I don’t have exact information on casualties.”

Mohammed Ismail Shinwari, district governor of Achin, said 13 to 15 militiamen were killed in the confrontation.

Members of the provincial council said the militia was led by a member of the Afghan parliament and a regional strongman, Zaher Qadir, and had possibly been infiltrated by the Taliban.

“There was a new fighter that had joined the group, and he was the one who opened fire on the Americans,” said Khair Mohammed, a commander in Qadir’s militia.