Saturday, August 6, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More than two dozen American troops are believed to have died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, a U.S. military official told CNN.
Many, if not all, were special operations forces, the official said. If the numbers are confirmed, the incident would be the most deadly for coalition forces in the Afghan war, according to a CNN count of international troop deaths.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a statement saying as many as 31 U.S. special forces and seven Afghans were killed and offered "deep regret" to U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Taliban claimed militants downed the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade. Mohammad Hazrat Janan, head of the provincial council said Tangi village elders reported that insurgents shot at the craft when it was flying back from an operation.
The incident took place in the eastern province of Wardak, an area rife with insurgent activity. There has been a swell of recent attacks in the country's southern and eastern provinces.
The crash comes just as NATO is drawing down and handing over security control to national forces. Ten thousand U.S. soldiers are scheduled to depart by year's end, while the full drawn-down is expected to take place by the end of 2014.
However, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has not said how the incident occurred. ISAF spokesman Justin Brockhoff confirmed the crash and acknowledged the helicopter had been flying in area where there was reported insurgent activity, but declined to offer additional details.
Officials are being especially tight-lipped because recovery operations at the site are still under way and body identifications and family notifications are just beginning, the U.S. military official said.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 6:37 AM