A military helicopter was shot down in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, killing 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan commandos. It was the deadliest single incident for American forces in the decade-long war.
According to The Associated Press, most of the Americans were from the elite Navy SEALs unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. NPR could not independently confirm that the Navy SEALs were among those killed.
The Taliban claimed they downed the helicopter with rocket fire while it was taking part in a raid on a house where insurgents were gathered in the province of Wardak late Friday. It said wreckage of the craft was strewn at the scene. A senior U.S. administration official in Washington said the craft was apparently shot down by insurgents. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the crash is still being investigated.
NATO confirmed the overnight crash took place and that there "was enemy activity in the area." But it said it was still investigating the cause and conducting a recovery operation at the site. It did not release details or casualty figures.
"We are in the process of accessing the facts," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.
One current and one former U.S. official told the AP that the dead included more than 20 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six, the unit that carried out the raid in Pakistan in May that killed bin Laden. They were being flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because families are still being notified.
Thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women who lost their lives and their families. If someone can explain to me why this had to happen, illuminate me...
I am Frank Chow and I approved this message