VOA News August 6 2011
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says 31 members of U.S. special forces and seven members of an Afghan special unit have died in a helicopter crash in the eastern part of the country.
President Karzai expressed his condolences Saturday to U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims. Mr. Obama said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families and loved ones and that he mourns the Afghans who died alongside the U.S. troops.
Officials say the crash in Wardak Province represents the biggest death toll in a single incident for international forces in Afghanistan since the war began nearly 10 years ago.
Media reports quote U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as saying that many of those killed were part of the Navy SEAL unit that was responsible for killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden several months ago in Pakistan.
The international coalition confirmed the crash in a statement, but gave no additional details about the possible cause or any casualties. However, the coalition did say that reporting indicated there was enemy activity in the area and that it is investigating the incident.
The Taliban claimed it shot down the aircraft with a rocket when the helicopter attacked a house where insurgents had gathered. It said eight of its fighters died in the assault.
Eyewitnesses in the area say there were several helicopters involved in the action and that the Chinook transport helicopter came down after trying to lift off.