The Taliban laid an elaborate trap for U.S. special forces last week when they shot down a Chinook helicopter during a night raid in Afghanistan, killing 38 troops including 30 Americans, an Afghan official said Monday.
The dead reportedly included members of the elite U.S. unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as seven Afghan commandos and an interpreter. It was the single biggest loss of U.S. life in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
A senior Afghan government official told AFP news agency that Taliban commander Qari Tahir lured U.S. forces into an ambush by feeding them false information about a meeting of insurgent leaders.
"Now it's confirmed that the helicopter was shot down and it was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander," said the official, requesting anonymity.
He said the Taliban waited for the heavy-lift, twin-rotor aircraft often used to transport troops into battle, and opened fire from two sides of a steep valley.
"The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take. That's the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets and other modern weapons. It was brought down by multiple shots," he said.
Four Pakistanis helped Tahir carry out the strike in Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, he added.
The Afghan government believed the ambush was "retaliation" for the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this year. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter, without mentioning any details of an ambush.
Coalition special forces have stepped up so-called night raids against Taliban leaders in the past year, and have claimed significant success in disrupting the Islamist militia's command and supply structures.
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen told journalists in Kabul on Monday that the circumstances surrounding the helicopter crash were under investigation.
He disputed the Afghan official's suggestion that more sophisticated weapons than rocket-propelled grenades had been used in Friday's attack.
"We're not seeing any specific new types of weapons on the battlefield," he said.