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Apr 13th, 2011

Two U.S. Servicemen Mistakenly Killed by Drone Attack in Afghanistan

Died in missile airstrike in apparent case of mistaken identity

Image: Predator drone over Kandahar
U.S. Predator drone, Afghanistan. (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP)

By Jim Miklaszewski
Chief Pentagon correspondent
Image: Jim Miklasszewski

April 11, 2011

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine reservist and a Navy corpsman were killed in a drone airstrike in Afghanistan last week in an apparent case of friendly fire, U.S. military officials tell NBC News.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Corpsman Benjamin Rast were reportedly killed Wednesday by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. Air Force Predator in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, NBC reported. Smith and Rast were part of a Marine unit moving in to reinforce fellow Marines under heavy fire from enemy forces outside Sangin in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

The Marines under fire were watching streaming video of the battlefield being fed to them by an armed Predator overhead. They saw a number of “hot spots,” or infrared images, moving in their direction. Apparently believing that those “hot spots” were the enemy, they called in a Hellfire missile strike from the Predator.

It’s believed that this is the first time that U.S. service members have been killed by a Predator in a friendly fire incident.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Hospitalman Benjamin Rast

Smith, 26, of Arlington, Texas, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division out of Houston. Rast, 23, was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division out of San Diego. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Image: Mass grave in Afghanistan
Afghans bury some of the victims of a U.S. airstrike in a mass grave near Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2009. A NATO fact-finding team estimated that about 125 people, many of them civilians, were killed in a U.S. airstrike called in by German forces in Afghanistan, guided by a lone informant. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Afghanistan Fog of War (Jan. 31, 2010)

One Informant, Many Dead (Sept. 5, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 13, 2010

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties

Sgt. Kurt Kruize (left); Maj. Randell Voas

One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting the deaths of two Minnesotans in the wars. Army Reserve Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize, 35, St. Cloud, died April 4, 2010 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered in a noncombat accident. Sgt. Kruize was assigned to the 367th Engineer Battalion, St. Cloud, Minn. Air Force Maj. Randell D. Voas, 43, Lakeville, died April 9, 2010 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a CV-22 Osprey crashed, killing three service members and a civilian contractor. Maj. Voas was assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — April 13, 2009

Obama Passes First Crisis Test

Crew members of the ship celebrate on the deck of the Maersk Alabama at the Mombasa port in Kenya, Sunday, April 12, 2009, after their captain was released. (Photo credit: Unknown; possibly Sayyid Azim / AP)

Two years ago today, on April 13, 2009, I reported that President Barack Obama’s “no drama” handling of the Indian Ocean hostage crisis — culminating in U.S. Special Operations forces’ successful rescue of an American ship’s captain held by Somali pirates — proved a big win for his administration in its first critical national security test.

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