By Miriam Raftery
August 6, 2011 (San Diego)—A NATO helicopter was shot down today during a conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan, killing 31 U.S. soldiers and seven Afghans in the deadliest single incident in the 10-year war, Reuters reports. ABC News reports that 25 Navy Seals were on board, plus seven Afghan Special forces soldiers, five crew members and an interpreter.
According to the Associated Press, most of those killed were from Seal Team Six, members of the same unit that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May. It is not yet known whether any of the victims may have trained at the Navy Seals base on Coronado. The Pentagon confirms the crash occurred but has not yet released the death toll pending investigation.
Reuters cites Afghan president Hamid Karzai as the source"shared his deep sorrow and sadness" with counterpart Barack Obama and the families of the U.S. and Afghan victims, according to a palace release.
Senior U.S. leaders extended condolences to the families of American and Afghan forces after an International Security Assistance Force helicopter crash claimed lives in eastern Afghanistan. Recovery operations are under way, ISAF Joint Command officials said in a statement today, noting that reports indicate there was enemy activity in the area.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said today in a statement. “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families,” the president continued, “including all who have served in Afghanistan. “We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country,” the president added.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also offered his condolences in a statement today.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of many outstanding Americans in uniform and of their Afghan counterparts earlier today in Afghanistan,” he said. “Their courage was exemplary, as was their determination to make this a safer world for their countries and for their fellow citizens.
“We will stay the course to complete that mission, for which they and all who have served and lost their lives in Afghanistan have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he continued. “They and their families are in my thoughts, in my prayers and in my heart."
The United States will draw inspiration from the lives of those who were lost, Obama said, and continue the work of securing the country and standing up for the values they embodied. “At this difficult hour, the president added, “all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security.”