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5th U.S. casualty named in possible friendly fire case in Afghanistan

5th U.S. casualty named in possible friendly fire case in Afghanistan
Five U.S. soldiers were killed last week in a possible friendly fire strike in Afghanistan. (Los Angeles Times)

The Defense Department has identified the fifth of five soldiers killed last week in southern Afghanistan, possibly by friendly fire: Army Staff Sgt. Jason A. McDonald, 28, of Butler, Ga.

Military officials released few details about McDonald and have said little about the incident. The soldiers were in a clash with Taliban forces in remote Zabul province Monday night, and Afghan officials have said an airstrike by the U.S.-led military coalition mistakenly targeted soldiers who were battling Taliban insurgents.

"Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause" of the soldiers' deaths, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement Tuesday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen."

The U.S.-led coalition concurred: "The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved," it said last week.

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In addition to McDonald, also killed were Army Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena; Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Wash.; Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio; and Pvt. 2nd Class Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Ill. 

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McDonald, along with Studenmund, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Ft. Campbell, Ky.

One Afghan soldier was also reported killed.

For more news, follow @raablauren on Twitter.

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