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U.S.-Led Forces Kill Seven Afghans In Friendly Fire

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- U.S.-led coalition forces have killed six Afghan policemen and one civilian in a case of mistaken identity while targeting a Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military and police said.

Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in air strikes by international troops in Afghanistan this year, Afghan officials say, feeding a perception that NATO-led and U.S. coalition forces do not take enough care when using air strikes.

Though it is rare for foreign troops to hit their allies in the Afghan security forces, the latest incident is the third reported case of friendly fire in as many months, and is likely to strain relationships between the two sides.

"One local national and six Afghan National Police were killed in Qalat district in Zabul Province, during an operation targeting a known Taliban commander," said Lieutenant Commander Walter Matthews, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul.

Thirteen others were also wounded, he said.

The incident was a case of mistaken identity on both sides, with Afghan police and U.S.-led coalition forces firing on each other, said Matthews. It was not clear who opened fire first.

The soldiers used small-arms fire and called in air support, but it was not immediately clear how the policemen and civilian were killed, Matthews said.

The Afghan Defense and Interior ministries, together with the U.S. military, are conducting a joint investigation into the incident.

The U.S. military deeply regrets this case of mistaken fire, Matthews said.