Pentagon probing whether Army Rangers killed by friendly fire

Pentagon probing whether Army Rangers killed by friendly fire
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The Defense Department is looking into whether two U.S. Army Rangers who died Wednesday may have been killed by friendly fire, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Friday that the deaths of Sgts. Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Ill., and Cameron Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio, occurred during a raid on ISIS militants in Afghanistan. He said that “some of the initial indications” suggest friendly fire is to blame for the casualties.

Davis added that there is “no indication” of any intentional attacks by Afghanistan soldiers on American troops.

A third ranger was wounded, but Davis said there was no indication it was caused by friendly fire.

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“War is a very difficult thing, in the heat of battle, in the fog of war the possibility always exists for friendly fire, and that may have been what happened here, and that is what we are looking into with this investigation,” Davis said.

The families of both soldiers were informed of the possibility of friendly fire as the cause of death “and we have appointed a team to investigate,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.

The two service members — both from the 75th Ranger Regiment from Ft. Benning, Ga. — were killed in the Nangarhar province, the same area where the U.S. on April 13 dropped a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” on ISIS targets.

Afghan Special Security Forces and U.S. Army Rangers were conducting a night raid to target and kill top ISIS leader emir Abdul Hasib when the two Rangers died.

Fifty Army rangers and 40 Afghan troops were dropped by helicopter into the Mohmand Valley near the ISIS leader's headquarters, but within minutes were surrounded by “360-degree” fire.

The group called in airstrikes “in self-defense to enable our operations and to medically evacuate the wounded Rangers,” the military noted.

Davis said several senior ISIS leaders and 35 terrorist operatives were killed in the raid, which the military deemed a success. The Pentagon suspects Hasib was killed, but it has not yet been confirmed.  

“If confirmed, the death of the Emir and his associates will significantly degrade ISIS operations in Afghanistan and help reach our goal of destroying them in 2017,” the statement said.

There is no indication any civilians were killed as a result of the operation, officials said.

“We did know going in that this was going to be a very tough fight,” Davis added. “We were going after the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan and doing it in a way that required us to put a large number of people on the ground as part of this mission, and it was a mission that appears to have accomplished its objective ... but it did so at a cost.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday offered condolences to the families of the two soldiers.

“Fighting alongside their Afghan partners, Josh and Cameron proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path,” Mattis said in a statement.

“They carried out their operation against [ISIS] in Afghanistan before making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and our freedoms. Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families."