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Pentagon says two Army Rangers may have been killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan

Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, left, and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas were killed during a raid in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)
Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, left, and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas were killed during a raid in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into whether friendly fire killed two U.S. Army Rangers during a night raid against an Islamic State compound in eastern Afghanistan this week.

Due to the fierce fighting, it's not clear if the two Rangers were shot by other Americans, by Afghan troops or by Islamic State fighters. U.S. commanders launched an official inquiry into the incident.

Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Ill., and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed during a three-hour battle Wednesday night in Nangarhar province.  

The pair, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in Ft. Benning, Ga., both died of their injuries after they were evacuated from the battle. A third Ranger was wounded and expected to recover.

The raid, near the border with Pakistan, sought to capture or kill Abdul Hasib, Islamic State’s leader in Afghanistan.

About 50 Army Rangers and 40 Afghan special forces were dropped by helicopter at about 10:30 p.m. into the Mohmand Valley, according to the Pentagon. 

Within minutes, the commandos came under intense fire from all directions and dug-in positions, the statement said.

“Based on reports from forces on the ground, the engagement was close-quarters from multiple compounds,” the statement said.

American AC-130 gunships, Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets and armed drones all launched air strikes during the battle, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

Up to 35 militants were killed although it is not clear if Hasib was among the dead.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis praised the two Rangers who died.

“Fighting alongside their Afghan partners, Josh and Cameron proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path,” Mattis said in a statement. "Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”

Three U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan this year, all in Nangarhar.

On April 13, the Air Force dropped an 11-ton munition for the first time in combat on a cave-and-tunnel complex in Nangarhar that it said was a militant stronghold.

It wasn't clear Friday if the latest U.S. casualties were in the same area as the so-called Mother of All Bombs.

A total of 1,835 American troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.


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