4 Canadian soldiers killed by U.S. bombs

April 19, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Four Canadian soldiers taking part in a nighttime live-fire exercise were killed in Afghanistan when a U.S. F-16 fighter mistakenly dropped one or two precision-guided bombs on the area, Pentagon and Canadian officials said yesterday.

In Ottawa, the Canadian defense minister, Art Eggleton, called the deaths shocking and "a terrible tragedy" in an interview with the Canadian Press news agency.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien told Parliament that a joint investigation with the United States was under way and he assured the families of those killed and all Canadians that questions surrounding the incident Wednesday "will be answered."

In an earlier statement, Chretien said President Bush had called him to offer his condolences. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld delivered a similar message to Eggleton, who told Reuters: "There is no question of outrage on our behalf. It was an accident, but we need to know what happened."

According to Pentagon officials, it appeared that the pilot did not know he was flying over a restricted area, and that fire from the exercise made him believe he was under attack. The pilot was not part of the training exercise, said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, the liaison between the Pentagon and Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

The Canadian troops were part of an 800-strong contingent serving in Afghanistan under U.S. command as part of Washington's campaign against terrorism.

Eight soldiers were also wounded in the incident, about 10 miles south of their base in Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold.

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