US IDs last of 5 soldiers killed in possible friendly-fire attack

The Defense Department has identified the fifth of five soldiers killed last week in southern Afghanistan, possibly by friendly fire: Army Staff Sgt. Jason A. McDonald, 28, of Butler, Ga.

Military officials released few details about McDonald and have said little about the incident. The soldiers were fighting Taliban forces in remote Zabul province last Monday night, and Afghan officials have said an airstrike by the U.S.-led military coalition mistakenly targeted the US soldiers.

“Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause” of the soldiers’ deaths, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement Tuesday. The U.S.-led coalition concurred: “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,” it said last week.

In addition to McDonald, also killed were Army Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena, Calif.; Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Wash.; Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio; and Pvt. 2nd Class Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Ill.

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