By Debbie Gregory
Two U.S. Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan on April 26th may have been struck by “friendly fire” according to the Pentagon.
Both Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, were deployed from Fort Benning, Ga. A third soldier was wounded in the operation.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis confirmed that there is an investigation to determine whether the men had been killed by ground fire, either from American forces or Afghan commandos who were taking part in the raid.
“We are investigating the circumstances of the combat deaths of the two Army Rangers in the beginning of what was an intense three-hour firefight,” Davis said.
Davis said the target of Wednesday’s deadly raid was Abdul Hasib, whom Defense Department officials called the emir of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said they could not confirm that he was killed in the operation.
A spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Captain William Salvin said the deaths occurred in the same valley where the United States had dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast.
The soldiers were fighting the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province. They were taking part in a lengthy raid, supported by airstrikes from American warplanes, in Achin, a small district where a number of Islamic State fighters have been engaging in a long-running battle with Afghanistan security forces.
U.S. officials say intelligence suggests Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province.
U.S. officials have said they believe that IS has only 700 fighters in Afghanistan, but Afghan officials estimate it has more than double that number.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sergeants Rodgers and Thomas “proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path.Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”