Foreign legionnaire killed by 'friendly fire' in Afghanistan
One of the French foreign legionnaires killed earlier this month in a battle with insurgents in Afghanistan was mistakenly hit by shots fired by his own side, the army general staff said Wednesday.
An investigation into the August 7 clash, during which two soldiers from the elite 2nd Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment (2e REP) were killed and five wounded, found that a support group had mistakenly fired on them.
Foreign legion recruits come from around the world, drawn by the unit's tough reputation and offer of French citizenship for demobilised veterans.
The two paratroopers killed on August 7 were 30-year-old Corporal Kisan Bahadur Thapa of Nepal and 24-year-old Gerhardus Jansen of South Africa.
Their detachment had been taking part in a large-scale operation to search villages in the Tagab Valley, east of Kabul, when they were ambushed in dense undergrowth by at least 30 insurgents.
The legionnaires returned fire and, according to a French military spokesman, "neutralised" at least 10 of the attackers, but as they were disengaging from the fight a nearby back-up unit fired upon them.
The cause of the mistake is not yet known, and the spokesman said such incidents are rare in French forces, the last dating back to August 2010.
France has deployed 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to support local forces and the NATO-led coalition in their battle against Taliban insurgents.
The highland area east of Kabul where they patrol has in recent months become an increasingly active part of the frontline in the conflict, and 22 of the 74 French soldiers to have died since 2002 have died this year.
© 2011 AFP