Airstrike Kills Taliban Militants Behind Afghan Chopper Crash

Published August 10, 2011

| FoxNews.com

The Taliban insurgents responsible for shooting down a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan -- killing 30 Americans -- have been killed in an airstrike, U.S. Gen. John Allen said Wednesday in Afghanistan.

"The strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of 38 Afghan and coalition service members," NATO-ISAF said in a statement.

"Mullah Mohibullah was a key facilitator in an insurgent attack cell led by Din Mohammad, a Taliban leader killed in a previous Special Operations mission," the statement read. "As a leader in Mohammad's network in Tangi valley, Mohibullah had as many as 12 Taliban fighters under his command, including potential suicide bombers."

"After an exhaustive manhunt, Special Operations forces located Mullah Mohibullah and the shooter after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture."

NATO then called for an airstrike after ensuring no civilians were in the area, which resulted in the deaths of Mohibullah, the shooter, and several Taliban associates, according to the statement.

Allen said an F-16 executed the airstrike Monday, as it dropped bombs and killed less than 10 members of the network targeted in the initial operation. But the strike did not kill a Taliban leader that the Friday operation was designed to target, he added.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to release the names, ranks, hometowns and unites of those killed in the crash, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. The release will be in the next 24 hours.

On Tuesday, two C-17 aircraft carrying the remains of the 30 U.S. troops killed in the crash arrived at Dover Air Force Base in the morning and were met by President Barack Obama, Panetta, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and a number of other military leaders.

The Dover ceremony took several hours due to the number of caskets, which are taken off the plane individually in a slow, somber ceremony with honor guards.

The fatal crash on Saturday highlights the risks confronting the U.S.-led coalition as it looks to rely more on special operations forces while reducing the overall number of troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

A current and a former U.S. official said the Americans killed included 22 Navy SEALs, three Air Force members and a dog handler and his dog.

All but two of the SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Usama bin Laden in Pakistan last May, officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. None of the SEALs killed in the crash took part in the bin Laden mission.

Seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter also died in the crash.

The helicopter was ferrying a group of U.S. Navy SEALs to reinforce a group of U.S. Army Rangers who were under fire. Allen said the SEAL unit was called in to target Taliban fighters who were trying to escape the ongoing battle. 

Saturday's crash was the deadliest single incident for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.

Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/08/10/taliban-insurgents-behind-afghan-chopper-crash-killed-in-airstrike/