5 May 2002

‘Friendly Fire’ Deaths Traced to Dead Battery

“The deadliest ‘friendly fire’ incident of the war in Afghanistan was triggered in December by the simple act of a U.S. Special Forces air controller changing the battery on a Global Positioning System device he was using to target a Taliban outpost north of Kandaha.... Three Special Forces soldiers were killed and 20 were injured when a 2,000-pound, satellite-guided bomb landed, not on the Taliban outpost, but on a battalion command post occupied by American forces and a group of Afghan allies, including Hamid Karzai, now the interim prime minister.... The Air Force combat controller was using a Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver... to calculate the Taliban’s coordinates for a B-52 attack. The controller did not realize that after he changed the device’s battery, the machine was programmed to automatically come back on displaying coordinates for its own location.”

From the Washington Post.