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Helicopter troops 'in rescue bid'

The US Navy SEALs whose helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan had rushed to the mountainous area to help a US Army Ranger unit that was under fire from insurgents, officials say.

The rescue team had completed the mission, subduing the attackers who had the Rangers pinned down, and were leaving in their Chinook helicopter when the aircraft was apparently hit, one of the officials said.

Thirty Americans and eight Afghans were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest single loss for US forces in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

The Rangers, special operations forces who work regularly with the SEALs, afterward secured the crash site in the Tangi Joy Zarin area of Wardak province, about 60 miles (97 kms) south-west of Kabul, the other official said.

Nato has begun an operation to recover the remains of the large transport helicopter, while Afghan and American forces battle insurgents in the region of the crash.

The clashes today did not appear to involve the troops around the crash site.

"There have been a small number of limited engagements in the same district as yesterday's helicopter crash, however those clashes have not been in the direct vicinity of the crash site," Nato said in a statement. "As of now, we have no reporting to indicate any coalition casualties resulting from these engagements."

Wardak provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid confirmed the helicopter recovery mission was under way and said there were reports of Taliban casualties overnight.

"There is a joint operation going on by Afghan and Nato forces. A clearing operation is ongoing in the district and there are reports of casualties among insurgents," Shahid said. "The area is still surrounded by American forces."

Of the 30 Americans killed, there were 22 Navy SEALs, three Air Force combat controllers and a dog handler, his dog and four crew members. Most of the SEALs belonged to the same elite unit that killed Osama bin Laden, although they were not the same people who participated in the May raid into Pakistan that killed the al Qaida leader.


From Belfast Telegraph