Insurgents Down U.S. Helicopter in Afghanistan, Killing 30 Americans

Posted August 6th, 2011 at 7:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Insurgents in eastern Afghanistan have shot down a U.S. military helicopter, killing 30 American service members and seven Afghan commandos in the deadliest single loss for coalition troops in the decade-long war.

The Chinook CH-47 crashed before dawn Saturday in Wardak province. The Taliban movement said it fired a rocket at the helicopter during a battle in which coalition forces killed eight militants in a raid on their hideout. U.S. officials said it appeared the aircraft was shot down. The NATO alliance said it was investigating the cause of the crash.

U.S. officials said 25 of the Americans on board were special forces, including 22 Navy SEALs, the most elite troops in the U.S. military.

The officials said most of the special forces who died in the crash belonged to the same SEAL unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan last May. But, they say none of those on board the helicopter were involved in the bin Laden raid.

NATO says a civilian interpreter also died in the helicopter crash. The interpreter's nationality was not disclosed.

It was the deadliest attack on the U.S. military in Afghanistan since June 2005, when insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter in the eastern province of Kunar, killing 16 American troops.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the latest deaths are a reminder of what he called the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by U.S. military personnel and their families. He said his thoughts and prayers go out to families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost. Mr. Obama said he also mourns the Afghans who died alongside them.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sent a message of condolence to Mr. Obama and the families of the 38 personnel who were killed in the crash.

In a separate statements, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said coalition forces will “stay the course” in Afghanistan.

The NATO alliance has begun transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces in parts of the country as part of a plan to withdraw all NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the helicopter attack is a “stark reminder” that the United States faces an “ever more deadly enemy that will stop at nothing to inflict their twisted and hateful ideology.”

In other developments, NATO says a coalition service member was killed Saturday by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. It says Afghan and coalition forces also killed several insurgents during raids in the eastern province of Nangarhar.