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Errant bomb kills 3 GIs, 5 Afghans

Anti-Taliban and al Qaeda troops clash near Jalalabad

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A 2,000-pound "smart" bomb from a B-52 killed three U.S. Special Forces soldiers and five Afghan opposition fighters Wednesday when it missed its intended target north of here, according to U.S. military officials.

The soldiers were supporting opposition fighters engaging Taliban forces near Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold in the country.

Fierce fighting was reported near the city. Anti-Taliban commanders also reported clashes between opposition forces and al Qaeda fighters at the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan near Jalalabad.

At least 20 other U.S. soldiers and an unknown number of opposition troops fighting with the Special Forces unit were wounded near Kandahar, said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

Helicopters airlifted the wounded troops to the new U.S. Marine base south of Kandahar, nicknamed Rhino. The Afghans remained for treatment; the GIs were transferred to hospitals in the region.

Two deaths were initially reported but a third soldier died after leaving the Marine base.

Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun tribal leader named Wednesday by Afghan factions meeting in Germany to head the country's transitional government, suffered slight flesh wounds from shrapnel in the bombing.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports Taliban forces in Kandahar are continuing to hold out despite alliance pressures (December 5)

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U.S. fatalities
Three members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group were killed in a "friendly fire" incident near Kandahar.

  • Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39, from Tennessee

  • Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32, from Massachusetts

  • Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28, from California
  • Karzai spoke to CNN International in the hours after the attack and made no mention of the attack or any injury.

    Marine Maj. Brad Lowell, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the names of the dead and wounded were being withheld until their families can be notified. The incident is under investigation, he said.

    The bombing went awry at 10 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. EST) Wednesday during a B-52 bombing run, Clarke said.

    Lowell said the bomb involved was a Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, a single 2,000-pound satellite-guided bomb.

    "Any friendly fire incident is unacceptable, it'll be looked into and it's not something that's taken lightly and it's not something that we accept as part of combat," Lowell said. "It does take place. We do everything possible to avoid that taking place."

    Intense fighting

    Sources reported anti-Taliban, ethnic Pashtun fighters had seized control of some districts north of Kandahar and were surrounding the city Wednesday, after heavy U.S. airstrikes overnight and during the day.

    For a fifth day, strikes were targeting the airport that controls access to the southeast side of the city. Pashtun fighters said the airport was partially under their control. There also were airstrikes southwest of Kandahar and near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

    Karzai told CNN he is still interested in a negotiated handover of Kandahar.

    "I think that's very much possible," he said, referring to a handover. He said he believes the city would fall peacefully.

    Clashes near Tora Bora

    Anti-Taliban fighters clashed with al Qaeda fighters Wednesday at the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan near Jalalabad, the region where suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden might be hiding, their commander said.

    Thousands of fighters were being rushed to the area Wednesday. Hazrat Ali, head of security and police for anti-Taliban forces in Jalalabad, said he hoped to have 2,000 to 3,000 fighters in Tora Bora before the end of the day.

    U.S. officials say they do not know the whereabouts of bin Laden, but they do say the Tora Bora complex of mountain caves and tunnels is a key focus in their attempt to capture him and members of al Qaeda.

    Armed with tanks, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the anti-Taliban fighters encountered stiff resistance from al Qaeda fighters as they headed toward the base of the mountain. They received incoming small-arms fire. U.S. bombers circled overhead.

    The anti-Taliban commanders reported light casualties on the front lines about 20 miles south of Jalalabad.

    Ali said advance troops sent to the danger zone engaged al Qaeda with small arms in a firefight Tuesday that lasted several minutes but there were no casualties in the confrontation.

    Other al Qaeda members may not have fared as well.

    "Twelve important members of al Qaeda were dead because of bombings Tuesday and Monday," Ali said. U.S.-led airstrikes have been pounding the Tora Bora area for days.

    -- CNN correspondents Bob Franken, Brent Sadler, Robert Pelton and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.


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