Bodies of US Troops Killed in Afghan Helicopter Crash to Return Home

Posted August 9th, 2011 at 9:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The remains of 30 U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in central Afghanistan are set to be returned to the United States.

The bodies of the troops, including 22 members of the elite Navy SEALS, were due to arrive Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base, where the Defense Department says a ceremony will be closed to the media because the remains are still being identified.

The Chinook transport helicopter went down during an anti-Taliban operation in the remote Tangi Valley of Wardak province, reportedly after being fired on by an insurgent rocket-propelled grenade. Seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were among the 38 killed.

The crash is the worst loss of life suffered by U.S. forces in a single incident from the decade-long war. NATO says an investigation is under way to determine the exact cause of the crash.

In Washington Monday, President Barack Obama said the loss of the 30 American troops is “a stark reminder” of the risks that U.S. forces take every day.

Pentagon officials said families of the fallen troops would be allowed to attend Tuesday's arrival ceremony in the eastern U.S. state of Delaware. It was not immediately clear whether families had been asked if they would allow media access to the event.

President Obama's administration lifted an 18-year ban on media coverage of the return of dead soldiers in 2009, leaving the choice up to relatives of those killed.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that as heavy a loss as the crash was, it would be even more tragic if it were allowed to derail efforts to defeat al-Qaida and deny the terrorist group a safe haven in Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the apparent downing of the helicopter by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade was a single combat incident and did not represent any watershed or trend in the war against the Taliban.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, with international troop and Afghan civilian deaths reaching record levels.