KABUL – A helicopter crash in Afghanistan's eastern Wardak province has killed 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan soldiers, the country's president said on Saturday. It was the highest number of casualties recorded in a single incident in the decade-long war.
President Hamid Karzai sent his condolences to President Barack Obama, according to a statement issued by his office.
"A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province," Karzai said in the statement, adding that 31 American special operations troops were killed. "President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to Barack Obama."
NATO confirmed the overnight crash and said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure. The coalition said there "was enemy activity in the area."
"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts."
A spokesman for Wardak province, Shahidullah Shahid, said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.
A Nato Chinook helicopter has been shot down by Taliban insurgents, killing 31 American special forces soldiers in one of the worst single incidents in Afghanistan.
The aircraft was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed in the Tangi valley of Wardak province, west of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
A condolence statement from Hamid Karzai said 31 Americans had been killed and seven Afghans, making it the bloodiest incident for the United States and the coalition in the decade-long campaign.
Coalition head quarters in Kabul confirmed a helicopter had crashed in eastern Afghanistan, but a spokesman would not comment on casualty figures.