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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

New friendly fire concerns raised

March 30, 2002

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— The first American soldier killed during the assault in Afghanistan this month may have been hit by U.S. rather than enemy fire, the Pentagon said Friday in a report on some of the war's deadliest accidents.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Stanley L. Harriman of Wade, N.C., was originally believed killed in an enemy mortar attack March 2 at the opening of the offensive against al-Qaida fighters regrouping in the Shah-e-Kot valley.

War commander Gen. Tommy Franks said Friday he had asked for an investigation after learning an AC-130 gunship reported hitting an enemy convoy in the same region at about the same time.

"I put the two things together and said ... we need to find out the facts ... to see if there is any connection," Franks told a Pentagon press conference.

Harriman, 34, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, presented to his father, Buzz Harriman, a retired Army major.

The younger Harriman's widow, Sheila, said Friday, "He was still fighting for his country. ... Regardless of how he was killed, it will never change the fact that he was over there fighting for our freedom. He's still a hero."

Franks' disclosure came as part of report making public some of the findings on 10 cases of friendly fire, civilian casualties and damage to property since the war in Afghanistan began nearly six months ago.

The report said U.S. communications and procedural errors resulted in some of the accidents but the United States was not at fault in others. Still other cases remain under review.

The report held to the Pentagon's earlier assertions that there were no errors in targeting in a Jan. 23 raid on two suspected enemy compounds in Hazar Qadam. U.S. troops killed 16 people and captured 27, none of whom turned out to be either al-Qaida or Taliban. The 27 were later released.

"The fact of the matter is that this is a war," Franks said.

"The fact is we're never going to be able to absolutely eradicate the loss of life and in some cases the loss of the wrong life when we are engaged in these kinds of operations," he said of the January raid.

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