A Taliban rocket strike on a Chinook helicopter killed 30 U.S. special forces during a raid on an insurgent commander's compound in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, in what would be the deadliest single incident for Western forces since the 2001 invasion.
The shoulder-fired missile destroyed the heavy-lift helicopter as it flew over Wardak province, just southwest of Kabul, during a counter-insurgency operation on Friday, AFP reported.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the strike and the Wardak governor’s spokesman confirmed that an insurgent rocket downed the twin-rotor chopper.
Eight Afghan soldiers were also killed, President Hamid Karzai said in a statement.
"The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai expressed condolences over a NATO helicopter crash and the deaths of 30 members of U.S. special forces," the statement said. <> "The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan expresses his sympathy and deep condolences to U.S. President Barack Obama and the family of the victims."
An unidentified Western official quoted by The Guardian newspaper said all 38 people on board the Chinook were killed.
NATO spokesman Justin Brockhoff, a U.S. air force captain, said the alliance was "accessing the facts" and would not confirm any of the details.
Wardak resident Mohammad Saber said he saw the helicopter crash during a late-night operation in his village.
"At around 10:00 pm last night we heard helicopters flying over us," he said.
"We saw one of the helicopters land on the roof of a house of a Taliban commander, then shooting started. The helicopter later took off but soon after taking off it went down and crashed. There were other helicopters flying as well."
Wardak provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP an insurgent rocket hit and "completely destroyed" the helicopter as it was taking off.
If confirmed, it would be the worst loss of coalition forces in a single incident since 16 U.S. troops were killed when a Taliban rocket hit their Chinook in the eastern province of Kunar in 2005, AFP reported.
CNN reported that NATO officials were not ready to release details about the incident as recovery operations were under way and the families of the dead soldiers had not been informed.