(AFP) – Aug 21, 2008
BRUSSELS (AFP) — NATO on Thursday denied that Alliance warplanes mistakenly killed any of the 10 French troops who died in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.
"As far as NATO and ISAF (NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are concerned, the allegations in Le Monde are completely unfounded," Alliance spokeswoman Carmen Romero said.
"We deny the report... we have no information whatsoever that would indicate that the French soldiers were killed by NATO planes," Romero added.
Ten French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in a sustained attack Monday by the insurgents east of Kabul.
Le Monde newspaper reported Wednesday that according to French troops wounded in the fighting, NATO air strikes missed their targets and hit French troops, as did shots fired by Afghan troops backing them up.
The Pentagon said Wednesday it had no information that close US air support resulted in French casualties.
"None of the wounds sustained by those killed or wounded were consistent with air delivered ordnance," the NATO spokeswoman said.
We know that the planes supplying what we call 'close air support' could not engage because the French troops were very close to the Taliban insurgents.
"If they had (engaged) there might have been considerable collateral damage if bombs had been used," she said.
"No French soldier at any time during the incident came on the radio to say that they were taking friendly fire and no French soldier after the event has mentioned to the chain of command that this might have been the case."
In Paris, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said Thursday there is no evidence that US warplanes accidentally killed any of 10 French troops in Afghanistan.
"There was fire from machine guns on American planes that were guided by American special forces and we have no information that enables us to consider that the French soldiers were killed under fire from NATO planes," he said.
Morin also denied that, as claimed by soldiers quoted in Le Monde, it took four hours for backup to arrive to help the ambushed French troops.
"Fifteen to 20 minutes after the engagement of our forces, a support section left the base camp and took around 40 to 50 minutes to get to the scene," he told French radio station RTL.
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