Wednesday: NATO Airstrike Kills Afghan Troops; Oil Found in New Orleans Lake

BY Tom LeGro  July 7, 2010 at 8:51 AM EDT

Three American soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb in the southern Afghanistan and a NATO airstrike mistakenly killed five of its Afghan army allies in the east on Wednesday, officials said.

The Afghan soldiers were launching an ambush before dawn against insurgents in Ghazni province when NATO helicopters began firing rockets on them without warning, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. A NATO spokesman confirmed the airstrike was a case of friendly fire.

June was the deadliest for international forces since the war began in 2001, with 103 killed, including 60 Americans. No additional information was available on the U.S. soldiers killed on Wednesday.

Britain announced Wednesday that it will withdraw its troops from Helmand province, one of the deadliest for British forces, accounting 99 deaths of the 312 soldiers killed since 2001. Responsibility for the southern area will turned over to U.S. forces. Last month, Britain handed over command in Helmand to a U.S. general.

The former head of Britain’s army, Richard Dannatt, now an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, said soldiers in Helmand were attracting enemy attacks.

“The intention when we went into southern Afghanistan was to try to get the country on its feet economically. We all know it didn’t turn out that way,” he told BBC radio.

NPR photographer David Gilkey, who has embedded with the 101st Airborne Division outside of Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan, has a report and slideshow on that region here.

Oil Seeps into Lake Pontchartrain

Oil from the ruptured BP well in the Gulf of Mexico is seeping into Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans. The 630-square-mile lake had been rescued from pollution in the 1990s and is now used primarily for recreation.

Meantime, bad weather kept oil skimmers from working offshore for another day. The arrival of a Navy blimp intended to hover above the relief effort was delayed until Friday.

An investigation by the Associated Press shows more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells beneath the Gulf of Mexico have been ignored for decades. Neither the oil industry nor the government is checking to see if they are leaking.

The oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing, reports the AP.