BAGHDAD, The United States opened a so-called “friendly fire” investigation after 10 Iraqi soldiers were killed in a coalition airstrike targeting Isis on Friday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said an American aircraft carried out the airstrike south of Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad. He said he expressed his condolences for the Iraqi deaths in a call with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Carter said the incident was “a mistake that involved both sides,” adding there would be an investigation.
“He and I agreed that this was an event that we both regretted,” Carter told reporters after the call, which he made while visiting the USS Kearsarge in the Persian Gulf. “It’s tragic . . . but he and I both recognized that things like this can happen in war.”
Iraqi forces have relied heavily on U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in the battle against the IS militant group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. Iraqi Defense minister Khalid al-Obeidi said coalition strikes were called in to support ground troops when Iraqi army helicopters were grounded due to bad weather. After two airstrikes, a third was carried out “without taking into account the distance that had been covered,” Iraq’s joint operations command said in a statement.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the facts. We have formally invited Iraqi participation in the investigation. All of our airstrikes in Iraq are conducted with the approval of the Government of Iraq in order to assist them in their fight against Daesh; we take great measures to prevent these types of incidents while protecting our partnered forces,” the coalition said in a statement.
“To the best of our knowledge, there have been no previous incidents of friendly fire in Iraq involving the coalition during the course of Operation Inherent Resolve. We are fully committed to the safety of our Iraqi partners while pursuing the destruction of our mutual enemies.”