The chopper, carrying the SEALs as well as seven Afghan commandos and other U.S. troops, was shot down early Saturday as it arrived to answer a call for help from another special forces group, the military said publicly for the first time, the LA Times reported today.
The crash killed 30 U.S. military including 22 Navy SEALs. Eight Taliban fighters were also killed in the battle, a Taliban spokesman said.
Previously, the AP reported there were conflicting accounts on when the SEAL team was shot down. One official said they had accomplished their mission, but another said the Chinook helicopter was hit as it approached.
In today's more complete account NATO said the operation, "began as a security search for a Taliban leader responsible for insurgent operations in the nearby Tangi Valley."
The initial team on the ground, not the SEALs, spotted insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades in the area and engaged them, and at about the same time issued a call for help. The statement did not identify the original team on the ground. Some published reports have said it was a unit of Army Rangers.
The Navy Times reported, the personnel in the helicopter belonged to an “immediate reaction force” that was en route to support "troops in contact" on the ground, said a Navy Special Warfare member. "Troops in contact," means the U.S. forces were in a firefight.
"These additional personnel were inbound to the scene when the CH-47 carrying them crashed, killing all on board," NATO said in a statement. It said the troops already on the ground, backed by forces from a nearby base, then moved in to secure the scene.
Military forces worked on Monday to recover all the pieces of the helicopter, the AP also reported today.
The tragedy comes during a significant uptick in special forces raids on Taliban, also known as "night raids." From April to July this year, 2,832 special operations raids captured 2,941 insurgents and killed 834, twice as many as during the same time period last year, according to NATO.