US helicopter shot down in Afghanistan

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 18:58:14 -0000

 smoke above Shah-e-Kot mountain range during US raid
Jets are pounding caves high in the mountains

At least seven US soldiers have lost their lives in eastern Afghanistan
after their aircraft were hit by enemy fire, US Defence Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld said. 

At least six were killed when their army helicopter was shot down and
another died when a second helicopter was hit, although that aircraft
managed to get away. 

Ten US soldiers were also wounded in the shoot-down, which happened at
about 2230 EST (0330 GMT on Monday). 

US President George W Bush "regretted" the loss of life, White House
press secretary Ari Fleischer said at a press conference. But he felt
that "there will be casualties on behalf of a very important cause, to
protect our freedoms and to rout out terrorism". 

The MH-47 special operations Chinook helicopter, thought to be carrying
up to 24 troops, was taking part in operations against suspected
al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters in mountains south of Gardez in Paktia

A Pentagon official told the BBC that the helicopter crash-landed after
being hit and was then attacked by suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban
fighters, triggering a firefight. 

It is not yet clear how many soldiers died in the initial crash and how
many in the subsequent shooting. 

A number of friendly forces came to the aid of the downed helicopter. 

The official would not confirm or deny if any friendly forces were
killed in the fight. 

Under fire 

US officials declined to give further details because a search and
rescue mission may still be under way. 

stm> Click here for a guide to US military options 

An American soldier either fell from the second aircraft or was left
behind - he was later found dead. 

The Pentagon said that small arms fire and not heavier anti-aircraft
fire may have been responsible for bringing down the aircraft. 

The BBC's Paul Reynolds said that Apache gunships have reported coming
under fire from the ground during operations in the area. 

Heavy battle 

The helicopters are the first US aircraft shot down in action since the
anti-terror war began in Afghanistan last October. 

 Anti-Taleban fighters in Paktia
Afghan fighters form the bulk of the assault force

The incident comes as the largest coalition force assembled so far in
Afghanistan - about 1,500 in total - remains heavily engaged in ground
battles with the militants. 

An Afghan commander on the ground said his forces had captured a
strategically important ridge and expected the operation to be over in

Troops from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and Norway are
also involved alongside US special forces and Afghan fighters. 

On Friday, one American soldier and three Afghan anti-Taleban soldiers
were killed and several more wounded in heavy fighting in the Gardez

Mirage jets 

US bombers have continued heavy raids on the militants' mountain

French Mirage 2000-D jets are flying in support of the bombers, on their
first missions in the US-led campaign. 

A US military spokesman, Major Ralph Mills, said several hundred
militants were concentrated in the Shah-e-Kot mountains, 30 kilometres
(20 miles) south of Gardez in Paktia province. 

Air strikes continued throughout Monday morning, with villagers standing
on their roofs and the tops of their cars to see the B-52s in action,
the BBC's Susannah Price reports. 

High-altitude battle 

US heavy bombers and AC-130 gunships have been targeting the militants'
vehicles, mortar positions and caves, Major Mills said. 

 Afghans read propaganda leaflets
Warning: "Surrender militants or die"

Saturday's ground attack - in snow-covered mountains rising to 3,480
metres (11,600 feet) above sea level - apparently failed to dislodge the

US military officials said there were "intense" clashes as the US-led
force of 1,500 Afghan allies, US special forces and troops from the
Army's 101st Airborne assault forces encountered artillery, mortar and
heavy machine-gun fire. 

US planes are currently using new "thermobaric" laser-guided bombs in an
effort to flush out the militants in the mountains. 

The 2,000-pound (907-kg) laser-guided weapons are filled with a special
explosive mixture that creates a high-pressure blast, driving all of the
oxygen out of a cave and potentially choking those inside. 

Souce: BBC

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