WASHINGTON - Cpl. Patrick Tillman, killed in Afghanistan last month after spurning a $3.6 million football contract to join the special forces, was probably shot by his own comrades in the confusion of battle, the military said on Saturday.
An investigation of the April 22 death of Tillman, 27, an
ex-safety for the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals,
did not blame any individual.
Previous military statements had suggested Tillman, perhaps
the best-known U.S. casualty of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns,
had been killed by enemy fire.
"While there was no one specific finding of fault, the
investigation results indicate that Cpl. Tillman died as a
probable result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in
combat with enemy forces," the U.S. Central Command said in a
The term "friendly fire" is used by the military to
describe an accidental or mistaken attack on one's own forces
Tillman's elite Army Ranger platoon was ambushed by 10 to
12 fighters firing small arms and mortars while on patrol at
about 7:30 p.m. near Khost, in southeastern Afghanistan, the
Army Special Operations Command said in Fort Bragg, North
The ambushers struck from "multiple locations over
approximately one kilometer in very severe and constricted
terrain with impaired light conditions," the Central Command
Tillman left his combat vehicle and, "in support of his
unit, moved into position to suppress enemy fire," the command
The investigation's findings "in no way diminish the
bravery and sacrifice displayed by Cpl. Tillman," the statement
'INHERENT DANGER OF CONFUSION'
"There is an inherent degree of confusion in any firefight,
particularly when a unit is ambushed, and especially under
difficult light and terrain conditions which produces an
environment that increases the likelihood of fratricide," the
Tillman turned down a three-year NFL contract to join the
Rangers along with his brother, Kevin, eight months after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He had played
four seasons with the Cardinals. His Army annual salary was
Both Tillmans took part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
before being deployed to Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda
guerrillas and their allies in the ousted Taliban militia.
In April, the Army said Tillman had been promoted
posthumously to corporal from specialist and it awarded him the
Silver Star, its third highest decoration for combat valor.
At the time, it said Tillman's platoon had been split into
sections during the fatal combat patrol. Describing Tillman as
a team leader, the Army Special Operations command said on
April 30 he had led his comrades up a hill to fire back at
Fratricide is an age-old problem in war. U.S. military
scholars say the percentage of deaths resulting from it has
grown in line with technological advances that have boosted
operational tempo on the battlefield.
In the 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi from Kuwait, 35 of
146 Americans who died in combat were killed by other
This compared with an average of about 15 percent in World
War II, Korea and Vietnam, according to a 2001 article in
National Review Online by Mackubin Owens, a professor of
strategy and force planning at the U.S. Naval War College.
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