Karzai: 31 US Special Forces Killed in Afghan Helicopter Crash

Posted August 6th, 2011 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says 31 members of U.S. special forces and seven members of an Afghan special unit have died in a helicopter crash in the eastern part of the country.

Officials say the crash in Wardak province represents the biggest death toll in a single incident for international forces in Afghanistan since the war began nearly 10 years ago.

The international coalition confirmed the crash in a statement, but it gave no additional details about the possible cause or any casualties. However, the coalition did say that reporting indicated there was enemy activity in the area.

The Taliban claimed it shot down the aircraft with a rocket when the helicopter attacked a house where insurgents had gathered. It said eight of its fighters died in the assault.

The group's claims have not been independently verified, and it has exaggerated incidents with foreign forces in the past.

Eyewitnesses in the area say there were several helicopters involved in the action and that the Chinook came down after trying to lift off.

President Karzai expressed his condolences Saturday to U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims. Mr. Obama said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers went out to the victims' families and loved ones and that he mourns the Afghans who died alongside the U.S. troops.

In a separate statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths of the American troops and their Afghan counterparts.

Chinook helicopters typically are used for military transport.

The previous biggest death toll for international forces in Afghanistan since the start of the war was in 2005 when the Taliban shot down a military helicopter, killing 16 U.S. troops in eastern Kunar province.

A recent United Nations study found that security incidents are up by 50 percent when compared to the same period last year.

The spike in violence comes as the international coalition moves forward with transferring security control of certain areas to the Afghan forces in preparation for withdrawing from the country in the coming years.