Afghan president says 31 US troops killed in NATO helicopter crash

Afghan president says 31 US troops killed in NATO helicopter crash

August 6th, 2011 Times Free Press Wire Services in Local - Breaking News

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai says 31 U.S. special forces and seven Afghan soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Wardak province.

It's the highest number of casualties recorded in a single incident in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said later Saturday that 22 of the dead were members of a Navy SEAL unit, along with other U.S. service members and the Afghan unit. The helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Tangi Valley west of Kabul, one coalition official said, though others said the exact weapon remained in question.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which punctuated a surge of violence across the country, even as U.S. and NATO forces begin a modest drawdown of troops. It occurred after a night raid, a tool that has been praised by U.S. commanders as one of the most effective in the recent military offensive, though the raids have been heavily criticized by Afghan officials and civilians.

President Barack Obama offered his condolences and prayers to the families of the Americans and Afghans who died in the attack. "Their death is a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice made by the men and women of our military and their families," Obama said.

Karzai said in a statement on Saturday that he has sent condolences to Obama for the victims of the overnight crash.

See Sunday's Times Free Press for complete coverage.