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Five Americans troops were killed in an apparent friendly fire incident in southern Afghanistan, a U.S. defense official said Tuesday, in one of the worst such incidents involving United States or coalition troops since the start of the nearly 14 year war.

The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly to journalists.

The U.S.-led international coalition said the service members were killed in an apparent friendly fire incident, which an Afghan official said took place in southern Zabul province. A statement said all five soldiers died on Monday but did not give further details on the attack or the nationality of the soldiers.

If confirmed, it would be one of the most serious cases involving coalition-on-coalition friendly fire during the war.

“The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed during this difficult time,” the coalition said in an announcement.

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