A navy helicopter was shot down in japanese Afghanistan, killing 31 U.S. particular operation troops, most of them from the elite Navy SEALs unit that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, together with seven Afghan commandos. It was the deadliest single incident for American forces within the decade-long struggle.
The Taliban claimed they downed the helicopter with rocket hearth whereas it was participating in a raid on a home the place insurgents had been gathered within the province of Wardak late Friday. It mentioned wreckage of the craft was strewn on the scene.
U.S. officers confirmed to NBC News that the U.S. believes the helicopter was shot down. One senior protection official, speakng on situation of anonymity, mentioned the navy does “not have any indication that it was anything other than” hostile hearth.
NATO confirmed the in a single day crash passed off and that there “was enemy activity in the area.” But it mentioned it was nonetheless investigating the trigger and conducting a restoration operation on the web site. It didn’t launch particulars or casualty figures.
“We are in the process of accessing the facts,” mentioned U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.
One present and one former U.S. official mentioned that the useless included greater than 20 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six, the unit that carried out the raid in Pakistan in May that killed bin Laden. They had been being flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Both officers spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of households are nonetheless being notified.
None of these killed within the crash is believed to have been a part of the SEALs mission that killed bin Laden, however they had been from the identical unit because the bin Laden crew.
The SEALs weren’t all from the identical location within the U.S., officers advised NBC. Some had been East-Coast primarily based, others West-Coast primarily based.
President Barack Obama mourned the deaths of the American troops, saying in a press release that the crash serves as a reminder of the “extraordinary sacrifices” being made by the U.S. navy and its households. He mentioned he additionally mourned “the Afghans who died alongside our troops.”
The demise toll would surpass the worst single day lack of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan for the reason that struggle started in 2001 — the June 28, 2005 downing of a navy helicopter in japanese Kunar province. In that incident, 16 Navy SEALs and Army particular operations troops had been killed when their craft was shot down whereas on a mission to rescue 4 SEALs below assault by the Taliban. Three of the SEALs being rescued had been additionally killed and the fourth wounded. It was the very best one-day demise toll for the Navy Special Warfare personnel since World War II.
With its steep mountain ranges, offering shelter for militants armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, japanese Afghanistan is hazardous terrain for navy plane. Large, slow-moving air transport carriers just like the CH-47 Chinook are significantly susceptible, usually compelled to ease their method by means of sheer valleys the place insurgents can obtain extra degree strains of fireside from mountainsides.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday gave the primary public phrase of the brand new crash, saying in a press release that “a NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province” and that 31 American particular operations troops had been killed. He expressed his condolences to President Barack Obama.
The helicopter was a twin-rotor Chinook, mentioned an official at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The official, who spoke on situation of anonymity, mentioned he was receiving his data from an Afghan officer in Kabul.