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.
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.
McDonald, along with Studenmund, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Ft. Campbell, Ky.
One Afghan soldier was also reported killed.
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