May 17 (UPI) -- A U.S.-led airstrike in Afghanistan has accidentally killed at least 17 government officers and injured more than a dozen, Afghan officials said Friday.
The strike occurred outside the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, where government forces were fighting Taliban insurgents. The Afghan Interior Ministry said the bombing was ordered to help government forces defend itself against a large Taliban attack in the Nahr-e-Saraj district.
A highway police battalion commander was killed in the friendly fire attack, council leader Attaullah Afghan said. He was identified as Lt. Gran Habib.
The ministry said the Taliban suffered heavy losses in the fighting, and that it's unclear why the air raid hit government forces.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi claimed the strike killed 35 security forces and four senior Afghan police commanders.
The Taliban has continued attacks on Afghan government forces while it negotiates for peace with U.S. officials. The militants control most of the districts in the Helmand province, and have gained new territory during the intensified fighting.