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U.S. investigates friendly fire deaths of 3 soldiers

A U.S. helicopter lands at Camp Rhino, a Marine base in Afghanistan.  

(CNN) -- The U.S. military is investigating the deaths of three U.S. Special Operations soldiers, killed Wednesday when a satellite-guided U.S. bomb missed its target near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The explosion also wounded 20 U.S. soldiers. Five members of opposition forces -- allies fighting with U.S. Special Forces -- were killed and several others wounded in the bombing, said Victoria Clarke, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Rear. Adm. John Stufflebeem, a Pentagon spokesman, said a B-52 bomber dropped the 2,000-pound bomb while providing close air support for ground forces who were coming under mortar fire from Taliban positions.

Defense officials theorized the wrong coordinates were sent, wrong coordinates were entered on the plane or the system malfunctioned.

"A very smart weapon, a good weapon might work 85 to 90 percent of the time. The rest of the time it doesn't work right. Now that's a very good percentage," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "But it means that there is one out of 10 that is not going to do what it was intended to do."

President Bush offered his condolences to the families affected by the accident.

The dead Americans were all senior enlisted men with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, "Green Berets," based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The three were identified as Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39; Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32; Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28.

Sources reported intense fighting Wednesday in Kandahar -- the largest remaining Taliban stronghold. Ethnic Pashtun fighters were pressing on, and sources said the airport is partially under the control of Pashtun fighters.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, anti-Taliban mujahedeen fighters were engaged with a large pocket of al Qaeda fighters Wednesday at the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains in the eastern part of the country, where suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden might be hiding, their commander said.

 U.S. fatalities
Three members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group were killed in a "friendly fire" incident near Kandahar.

  • Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39, from Tennessee

  • Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32, from Massachusetts

  • Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28, from California

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