KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ A fire at an ammunition depot sent shrapnel and other ordnance streaming over the heads of coalition troops Thursday, killing three U.S.-allied Afghan fighters, Canadian forces said.
The fire broke out at about 10:30 a.m. at a weapons depot less than 2 miles from the Kandahar air base. Canadian forces, who guard the base perimeter, said the fire was started inadvertently by the Afghan fighters.
The Afghan fighters, who were trying to collect firewood, moved a wooden crate at the weapons depot and set off the blast, killing all three of them, the Canadians said. There were no other injuries.
Flying debris pinned down Canadian troops more than a half-mile from the depot site, said Capt. Ray Chaisson, who was leading the rescue mission.
``They had shrapnel going over their heads,'' said Chaisson. He said his men were not in danger, but they had not been able to get close to the site as of early Thursday afternoon and the fire was still burning.
The fire spread quickly through the grass due to high winds and extremely dry conditions at the Kandahar base, in drought-ravaged southern Afghanistan.
About 4,200 troops are based in Kandahar, including soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, special forces, and men and women from other coalition countries.
Two U.S.-allied Afghan troops were killed last Friday when their convoy hit a land mine less than a mile from the Kandahar base.