31 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs from the SEAL Team Six unit that killed Osama bin Laden, were killed in a Taliban rocket attack on an Army Chinook CH-47F helicopter in the Tangi valley of the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan on Saturday.
U.S. military officials have confirmed the attack, and that the 22 Navy SEALs who died in the attack were from the Seal Team Six unit, but were not the same men that were part of the Osama bin Laden raid.
The UK Daily Mail is reporting that a crew from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was piloting the helicopter, which included the 22 U.S. Navy SEALs, three U.S. Air Force air controllers, seven Afghan troops, a combat canine and his handler, a civilian interpreter, and the helicopter crew.
More information will be posted as it comes in.
FULL STORY UPDATE:
A helicopter has been brought down in a rocket attack in Afghanistan, killing 31 Americans. It was reportedly shot down by insurgents using a rocket propelled grenade; the Taliban have claimed responsibility. It is the highest number of US casualties in a single incident since the war began. A total of 38 people were on board the CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
Among those lost were as many as 25 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six – the unit that was responsible for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. The helicopter, which was flown by a 5 member crew from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, was reportedly carrying up to 25 Navy SEALs, 7 Afghan Army troops, an interpreter and a dog.
The Special Operations Troops were returning from a night raid on the village of Jaw-e-mekh Zareen, west of Kabul, where they had been involved in a two-hour fire fight. They were reportedly on a mission to rescue a team of military personnel who were engaged in a battle with insurgents. The helicopter was fired on, and crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, an area known for a strong Taliban presence.
President Obama was notified of the incident while at Camp David, and issued the following statement:
“Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan. We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied.”
With these deaths, the total number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan this year stands at 334. With the Afghan war reaching its 10th anniversary in October, an estimated 2,655 coalition troops have lost their lives in total. The deaths come as NATO is in the process of drawing down and handing control to Afghan forces.
The office of Afghanistan President Karzai issued a statement saying: “A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province. President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to President Obama.”