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US forces kill Taliban behind Chinook attack

Jenitkumar

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US forces have killed eight Taliban insurgents believed to be behind the weekend attack on a Chinook helicopter that cost the lives of 30 special forces troops, the American commander in Afghanistan said.

The eight insurgents were killed in an F-16 strike at midnight on Monday after the US trailed the men who had fled following the attack, General John Allen told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
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“This action was a continuation of the original mission to dismantle the Taliban network in . . . Wardak province,” Gen Allen said on a teleconference from Afghanistan. “This does not ease our loss. But we must and we will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemy.”

The US suffered its worst single-day loss of the 10-year Afghan war when the insurgents shot down a helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade during an operation in the Tangi Valley in Wardak province, a hotbed of Taliban activity west of Kabul, early on Saturday morning.

They killed 30 special operations troops, including members of the elite Navy Seal Team Six unit that killed Osama bin Laden. Seven Afghan soldiers and one civilian interpreter were also among the dead.

In a separate statement from Afghanistan, military officials named Mullah Mohibullah, a Taliban leader and the insurgent who was believed to have fired an RPG at the Chinook, as one of those killed in the attack. The Pentagon declined to elaborate on how it knew he was the man responsible.

“We tracked them, as we would in the aftermath of any operation, and we dealt with them with a kinetic strike,” Gen Allen said in his first press conference since assuming command in Afghanistan three weeks ago. “And in the aftermath of that, we have achieved certainty that they in fact were killed in that strike”.

But Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the militant responsible for the attack was still alive. “The person who shot down the helicopter is alive and he is in another province operating against [foreign forces],” he told the Reuters news agency.

The Taliban had claimed it had shot down the aircraft with rocket fire while it was taking part in an assault on a house where insurgents where gathered in the Sayd Abad district, a mountainous area that militants use as a staging area for attacks.

The mission has been questioned in the US, still reeling from the loss of so many troops in one incident. Politicians and military analysts have asked why such an elite unit was sent in as reinforcement during the mission.

But Gen Allen said that “this was one of many that were occurring in Afghanistan that night”.

The bodies of those who died in the Chinook arrived back in the US on Tuesday, with President Barack Obama in attendance at Dover air force base in Delaware. The victims’ names are expected to be released on Thursday.
 
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