NATO defends air power after friendly fire deaths

Coalition forces defended their reliance on air power in Afghanistan after a US warplane mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb on a British patrol, killing three soldiers and wounding two others. British and American officials were investigating Thursday's "friendly fire" incident, which comes amid growing concerns by Afghan authorities about civilian deaths from US airstrikes in the country. The F-15 aircraft dropped a single bomb after British troops called for airstrikes during an intense battle with Taliban insurgents northwest of Kajaki, a militant hotspot in southern Helmand province. Col. Martin Schelleis, chief spokesman of NATO's 37-nation strong mission in the country, said airstrikes were essential to the mission given the limited number of ground troops and rugged Afghan terrain.