Defense Dept. officials reported two deaths from the incident earlier this morning, but spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said this afternoon that the third had died while being transported to medical facilities.
Clarke said a 2,000-pound satellite-guided bomb called a Joint Direct Attack Munition was used in the incident. She said she had no information on the seriousness of the injuries sustained in the explosion.
Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the errant bomb fell some 100 meters from anti-Taliban fighters. Stufflebeem said he did not know the exact coordinates of the bomb’s intended target.
Five members of Afghan opposition forces were also killed and as many as 20 wounded in the incident.
Among the forces in the area were ethnic Pashtuns under the command of Hamid Karzai, who was named today to head the interim post-Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Clarke said it was unclear whether Karzai was among those hit, but said the Pentagon has received reports he has been seen in public after the incident occurred.
Karzai reportedly told Britain’s Channel 4 News himself that he was safe.
Both Clarke and Stufflebeem conveyed the Pentagon’s sympathies for those injured and the families of those killed.
“It just underscores what we don’t say often enough around here: that every single day there are men and women willing to put their necks on the line and put themselves in grave danger, and we appreciate what they do,” Clarke said.
The troops were north of the southern Afghan city Kandahar, the Taliban’s last major stronghold in Afghanistan.
Some of the wounded were evacuated to a Marine base in southern Afghanistan for transfer to an undisclosed medical facility, while others were brought straight to the facility, Capt. Stewart Upton, a Marine public affairs officer, told the Associated Press.
Today’s incident brings the number of American personnel confirmed killed during the operation in Afghanistan to four. CIA operative Johnny “Mike” Spann was killed Nov. 25 in an uprising at a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif.
Five U.S. soldiers were wounded by a similar JDAM bomb during that Mazar uprising while U.S. forces used airstrikes to quell the fighting there. Today’s attack was the second confirmed report of a “friendly fire” incident.