View Original Source: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/08/guy-that-shot-down-our-seals/
- By Noah Shachtman
- August 10, 2011 | 3:36 pm |
The U.S. military says they know who shot down a helicopter filled with 38 American and Afghan troops, including 19 Navy SEALs. That man is now dead, killed by a “precision airstrike” from an F-16, according to statement from the American-led coalition in Kabul.
But the military won’t say how they’re so sure that this particular militant was the one responsible for the deadliest incident so far in the Afghan war. The Chinook helicopter took “fire from several insurgent locations on its approach,” the statement notes, and it “has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash.”
In a talk with reporters, coalition forces commander Gen. John Allen said he believed that a single rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was likely responsible, but “we don’t know with any certainty what hit the aircraft.” (Some military insiders previously suspected that an improvised rocket was to blame.) Allen added that he wouldn’t know for sure until a full investigation was complete.
On Friday night, U.S. forces — including several Army Rangers — were sent into the Tangi valley, about 50 miles southwest of Kabul, to capture a local Taliban leader.
As the American team moved through the valley, Reuters reports, “they soon saw insurgents armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.” A firefight erupted, as the team assaulted what they believed to be the leader’s compound. Some of the insurgents “soon broke away from the main group.” That’s when the team called for reinforcements. In flew the Chinook, loaded with eight Afghans and 30 Americans.
“We committed a force to contain that element from getting out. And of course, in the process of that, the aircraft was struck by an RPG and crashed,” Allen said.
The shooter, along with Taliban captain Mullah Mohibullah, “was located after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture,” the coalition said in its statement. A “security force located and followed the insurgents to a wooded area in Chak district. After ensuring no civilians were in the area, the force called for the airstrike which resulted in the deaths of the Mullah Mohibullah, the shooter, and several of their Taliban associates.”
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Reuters that the coalition got the wrong guy. “The person who shot down the helicopter is alive,” he claimed.
Allen said that was nonsense. “We tracked them, as we would in the aftermath of any operation, and we dealt with them with a kinetic strike,” he told reporters. “And in the aftermath of that, we have achieved certainty that they in fact were killed in that strike.”
But Allen admitted that the target of the original raid remains at large: “Did we get the leader that we were going after in the initial operation? No, we did not.” Of that, Allen said, he was sure.
Photo: U.S. Army