NATO friendly fire wounds 5 Afghan policemen

KABUL, Aug 8 (Reuters) - NATO helicopters wounded five Afghan police by mistake during a battle with insurgents on Saturday, the Western force and Afghan government said.

Two AH-64 Apache helicopters from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were responding to small arms fire from insurgents when they fired on the police by mistake, the joint statement said.

The incident took place in the early hours of Saturday in Ghazni province, southeast of the capital Kabul, and is under investigation, a joint statement by the NATO-led force and the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

Friendly fire incidents involving Western forces and their Afghan allies are rare. Darkness can be a contributing factor.

The five wounded policemen, including one who is in a critical condition, were treated by ISAF medics.

Ghani Khan, deputy governor of the province, gave the toll as six policemen wounded, two critically.

Violence this year has hit its worst level in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. There are now more than 100,000 foreign troops fighting a growing Taliban insurgency. (Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Peter Graff and Robert Woodward)