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Afghan Governor Killed In Firefight With Australian Troops

CANBERRA (Reuters) -- An Afghan district governor was killed in a firefight involving Australian special forces, Australia's military has said.

Chora district Governor and tribal leader Rozi Khan Barekzai was among a number of people killed when an Australian patrol became involved in a firefight on September 18 near their Tarin Kowt base, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) said in a statement.

"It is not possible at this time to determine that he was killed by ADF fire," the military said.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, was an original member of the U.S.-led coalition which arrived in the country in 2001 to oust the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

The country still has around 1,000 reconstruction and combat troops in the southern Oruzgan Province, where they are deployed alongside Dutch forces.

Australian special forces commandos were moving on foot when they were fired on by unknown attackers, and returned fire in self-defense, the ADF statement said.

"Initial reporting indicates that a number of local nationals were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire," it said, adding Afghan National Police had also been in the vicinity.

Local reports said Khan went to help a friend who mistakenly told him his house was under Taliban attack when it was actually surrounded by international forces, who in turn mistook Khan's party for militants, Australian media said.

The shooting of Khan would now be investigated by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and Afghan authorities, as well as by the Australian military, the statement said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said Khan, a former mujahedin commander and ally of the president, was killed in a "misunderstanding" involving "foreign troops" and Afghan security forces," Australian media reports said.

Provincial police chief General Juma Gulab Khan told the "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper that two bodyguards were killed and another two injured in the firefight.

The botched raid comes just days after the NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, called for a review of combat methods after as many as 92 civilians were killed in a stray U.S. air strike.