— In what appeared to be the first case of U.S. troops being hit by
“friendly fire” from a drone aircraft, two American servicemen were
killed by a Hellfire missile after apparently being mistaken for
insurgents moving to attack another group of Marines in southern
A Predator drone fired the missile that killed a Marine and a
Drones have been involved in airstrikes that
accidentally killed Afghan and Pakistani civilians since the U.S. began
using them in the region a decade ago, becoming a flashpoint for
anti-American sentiment. But until now, no U.S. service members have
been reported killed by an unmanned
Dozens of Predators and more heavily armed Reaper drones fly every day over
Cameras aboard the drones also provide live video feeds to ground
combat units, which have come to rely on the drones for surveillance as
well as for air cover.
“With increased (drone) usage, there are going to be more incidents like this,” said
and a Navy Seal in the reserves. “People have an expectation that
because it’s automated, there won’t be mistakes, and that’s never the
case in war.”
The missile strike occurred about
last Wednesday near the crossroads town of Sangin. The former insurgent
stronghold has seen a resurgence of clashes in recent weeks between
Marine Staff Sgt.
called in the airstrike when they saw images on the video feed of
unknown men heading toward them. It wasn’t immediately clear why the
rescue team headed their way was not clearly identified.
The video feeds sometimes provide blurry or unclear
images of conditions on the ground, making it hard for screeners
responsible for searching the video for possible targets to always
understand what they are seeing.
In a statement, the US.-led International Security Assistance Force in
“An ISAF Joint Command incident assessment team is
looking into the incident,” the statement said. “A formal investigation
will determine the circumstances that led to the incident.”
Smith and Rast were with the
Rast’s father, Robert, told a television station in
Rast, 23, joined the
“I said, ‘Son, I won’t lie to you. I’m worried about
you and your deployment. What if something happens to you? What will I
say to everybody.’ He said, ‘Dad, just tell them I wanted to be on the
front lines covering the guy on my right and covering the guy on my
left. … You won’t have to say any more.’ “
Smith, 26, joined the Marines in 2003 and had served three tours in
In a statement to the Chronicle, Smith’s family
said, “The Bible says that we are to run the race that is set before
us. Jeremy did that even though it was a difficult race. … As a
leader with experience, he felt that he needed to go back, to ensure
that his guys made it home safely. That is why he did four tours.”
drones are rare because special cameras and sensors enable drones to
observe potential targets far longer and with more precision than
conventional aircraft and other surveillance platforms.
But with an increasing number of drones flying in
In one instance last February in
at least 15 men were killed and 12 people were wounded, including a
woman and three children, after a Predator drone crew mistook them for
insurgents. In that case, the missile strikes were carried out by
(c) 2011, Tribune Co.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.