What a terrible, terrible morning for America as we learn that “more than” 20 Navy SEALS from the unit that killed Osama bin Laden have died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The Taliban are taking credit for bringing the helicopter down in the province of Wardek. In all, reports are 31 or 38 dead (now confirmed 31 Ameicans). Names have not been released pending notification of family. This is the single-most deadliest day of the Afghanistan war. Just a caution, perhaps all of the SEALs killed are not from the venerated SEAL Team 6, but reports are seeming to lean that way. I will have updates as available. See an important update below.
One source says the team was thought to include 22 SEALs, three Air Force air controllers, seven Afghan Army troops, a dog and his handler, and a civilian interpreter, plus the helicopter crew.
The sources thought this was the largest single loss of life ever for SEAL Team Six, known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Source: Fox News
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.
Afghan military officials put the death toll at 38, including 31 Americans and 7 Afghan commandos. President Hamid Karzai’s office, in a statement, described the American casualties as members of the Special Operations forces…
There were conflicting accounts about when the helicopter went down. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said insurgents shot down the helicopter around 11 p.m. Friday as it was starting an operation on a house where the militants were gathering in the Tangi Joyee region of the district of Saidabad in the eastern part of the province. Eight militants were killed in the fight, which continued after the helicopter fell, Mr. Mujahid said…
“The fresh reports from the site tells us that there are still Americans doing search operations for the bodies and pieces of the helicopter are on the ground,” he said.
Jawa Report reflects on past Taliban abilities to bring about a catastrophe of this magnitude…and says they have had no such capabilities, so who has “an interest in supplying the Taliban with such good surface to air armaments?”
Question for military readers: How low must the helicopter have been to be within range of an RPG? From what I understand, 200 meters or less is optimal for an attack, but if it was that low I assume the altitude plus the pilot’s maneuvering would save some of the people on board. Instead, catastrophe. Was this a lucky hit when the chopper was at a higher altitude or was this some other weapon entirely? CSM considers the ominous implications:
Military authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of the crash. Prayers for the families who have already endured so much. A Memeorandum conversation is underway.
UPDATE: 8-7-11: Today there is confirmation that all Americans killed this operation have been recovered. The number of 22 SEALs is also confirmed. There is still no hard confirmation that the helicopter was taken down by a Taliban rocket-propelled-grenade (rpg).
Update 4:20 pm CDT: This Fox News report says while members of SEAL Team 6 were aboard, and did die, it is believed none of them were on bin Laden detail.
None of those killed in the crash is believed to have been part of the SEALs mission that killed bin Laden, but they were from the same unit as the bin Laden team.
“We don’t believe that any of the special operators who were killed were involved in the bin Laden operation,” a senior U.S. military official told Fox News.