WASHINGTON – Twenty-one U.S. soldiers deployed to the war in Afghanistan were injured in two accidents, and one of them was evacuated to Europe for treatment, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
On Monday, 16 were injured in a helicopter crash, and five were hit by a forklift.
One of the five injured by the forklift Monday evening was evacuated to Germany in critical but stable condition, and the other four had minor injuries treated at the site.
The 16 Army soldiers injured when their helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan were being treated at a military base north of Kabul, defense officials said Tuesday, revising the number from the 14 announced Monday. Their names have not been released.
Officials declined to say where the forklift accident occurred.
Hundreds of special forces are deployed in Afghanistan and working on clandestine operations. Pentagon officials on Monday disputed claims that a deadly U.S. special forces raid last week was a case of mistaken identity.
The soldiers' injuries in the helicopter crash were not life-threatening, military officials said.
An Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying 24 soldiers was ferrying members of the 101st Airborne Division to an area near Khost when it made a hard landing, defense officials said.
A statement from U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan, said the helicopter was extensively damaged and the wreck was under investigation.
Army Col. Frank Wiercinski, a spokesman for the 101st in Kandahar, Afghanistan, said the pilot apparently failed to see holes in the ground at the landing site due to darkness and dust. He said the soldiers were members of the 187th Regiment of the 101st Airborne.
It was the latest in a series of U.S. military aircraft accidents in and around Afghanistan. The most deadly was the crash of a Marine Corps KC-130 refueling aircraft in Pakistan on Jan. 9 in which seven Marines were killed. On Jan. 20, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed south of Baghram, killing two of the seven Marines aboard.
Regarding last Wednesday's raid by U.S. special forces in central Afghanistan, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said several clues indicated the target compounds were being used by the Al Qaeda terrorist network or its Taliban supporters.
"This had the clear indications of being a legitimate military target based on the indicators that we had been observing over time," said Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Groups of stolen U.N. vehicles had been seen moving in and out of one compound late at night, he said.
This matched the operating methods of the Al Qaeda and Taliban and gave the compound the appearance of a "meeting house" that was protected and guarded much like other compounds where Taliban and Al Qaeda have gathered elsewhere in Afghanistan, Stufflebeem said.
U.S. special forces soldiers were sent to the compounds under cover of darkness to investigate who was using them, were fired upon and fired back, he said. Stufflebeem said 27 people from the compounds were taken prisoner and 15 or 16 were killed.
Initial interrogations of the 27 prisoners have not established their affiliations, he said.
One U.S. special forces soldier was wounded in the ankle in the raid.
Local Afghans have protested to authorities in Kandahar, about 60 miles south of the target area, that no Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters were in the area and that those killed were loyal to Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, who met in Washington on Monday with President Bush.