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First 3 of 5 U.S. soldiers killed in friendly fire have been identified

MOKENA, Ill. (AP) - Among the five American troops killed this week during a friendly fire airstrike in Afghanistan were a soldier from northern Illinois who deployed a month after his father died and a soldier from Ohio who was engaged to be married.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the five American troops were killed Monday "during a security operation in southern Afghanistan." Officials said an airstrike was called in after the unit was ambushed by the Taliban. It is one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in nearly 14 years of war.

One of those killed was Aaron Toppen, 19, family spokeswoman Jennie Swartz told The Associated Press from the family's Mokena home, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. Swartz said representatives from the U.S. Army came to the door of Toppen's mother, Pam Toppen, in the middle of the night to deliver the news.

"Aaron was predisposed to serve. He was very keen to be in the military," his uncle, Jack Winter, said. "He was quite proud to be there."

Military representatives also went to the home of Justin Helton's parents in Beaver, Ohio, early Tuesday to inform them of their son's death, a relative said.

Mindy Helton said her cousin specialized in dealing with explosives and was based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Justin Helton, 25, had been in Afghanistan about two months and was engaged to be married, she said. He had been in the Army since 2010.

"He was a great boy, so full of life and outgoing," she said. "He loved hunting and the outdoors."

As Toppen's family and friends gathered at the light blue home, Winter described the high school graduate as a caring and funny man who was "something somewhat rare in youth culture today. ... In a word, I would summarize what he had as 'class,'" Winter said. "So rarely now do you see somebody like that who truly does have class who's polite, humble, loyal, who's a kind-hearted soul, generous."

It was the second death of a loved one for the family this year. Toppen was set to leave for Afghanistan in February, but his gravely ill father died that month and he stayed for the funeral. He deployed in March.

Toppen was a graduate of Lincoln-Way East High in Frankfort, Illinois, and loved the outdoors, especially fishing. Family members at the home - where friends continued to stop by and bring food Tuesday evening - circulated a picture of Toppen as a young child sitting next to his father in a fishing boat.

Military members provided few details of the attack to the family, Winter said.

"A military representative came to my sister's home ... and broke her heart," Winter said. "It just tears your world apart. That's the situation my sister is in."

Toppen was the youngest of three children.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's ambush in Zabul.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a battle took place between foreign troops and Taliban fighters in the Arghandab district, and a "huge number" of NATO soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims.

The other three victims have not yet been identified.

___

Associated Press writer Lisa Cornwell contributed to this report from Cincinnati, Ohio.

5 American Soldiers Die From 'Friendly Fire' In Afghanistan

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hanlon1212 June 10 2014 at 5:39 AM

BRING OUR TROOPS / HEROES HOME --

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT , NAPALM THOSE POPPY FIELDS ON THE WAY OUT .

Flag Reply +60 rate up
22 replies
sardukar83 June 10 2014 at 11:17 AM

1500+ US dead under Obama...indefinitedetention ...rendition...still there....thousands of innocent civilians dead under Obama....where is MSNBC with its nightly count?....the protests?...all the fake outrage under Bush now looks ....well clearly fake....libs could care less about dead civilians or US soldiers...they just hated Bush....pathetic

Flag Reply +58 rate up
21 replies
mballs8 June 10 2014 at 11:02 AM

To those that have fallen, "God's Speed"................. MSgt, USAF, Ret

Flag Reply +49 rate up
5 replies
camerone5768 June 10 2014 at 7:36 AM

Probably killed by the same Taliban inmates that were just released Guantanamo Bay. Another great job by this administration and as usual they will create a distraction that will somehow make you clowns think it was Bush's fault !!!

Flag Reply +46 rate up
22 replies
Larry June 10 2014 at 9:10 AM

1500+ dead under Obama - approaching 3X those who died in Afghanistan under Bush. Where is the lib outage, you H Y P O C R I T E S.

Flag Reply +41 rate up
14 replies
unrepentant1944 June 10 2014 at 8:17 AM

Yes! Let's send some politicians to Afghanistan to die... for no reason at all!

Flag Reply +39 rate up
3 replies
bigcatdaddy June 10 2014 at 9:16 AM

Why are we still in that cess pool? Our troops should have been brought home a long time ago.

Flag Reply +34 rate up
6 replies
ohioh111b111y June 10 2014 at 12:06 PM

Here we go again: To the families of the men killed: My sincere condolences. Much peace to your families, friends and co brothers in arms.

ALSO: dont believe the story you get from the US govt. If it smells one little bit sheety, stuff your sorrow and get on the GOVT for the truth. Their lies are boundless. Their lies are an abomination to all service men and women. Their lies are more forthcoming than the truth that will set us all Free.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
3 replies
Robert Mccallum June 10 2014 at 7:27 AM

You have to wonder if any of the 5 just released were involved?

Flag Reply +28 rate up
19 replies
scottee June 10 2014 at 9:11 AM

to quote Ted Kennedy...how many more, Mr. President? how many more?
leaving 9000+ troops there is NOT winding down the war.

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5 replies
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