Rebels ‘shot at US chopper head-on’

March 01, 2014 - 5:47:33 am
WASHINGTON: Taliban fighters shot at a US helicopter head-on from nearly point-blank range, US lawmakers heard on Thursday, in what was the single deadliest incident for US and Nato forces in the Afghan war.

Lawmakers were grilling US military officials over the August 6, 2011 attack on the Chinook that killed 30 Americans as it transported Navy SEAL commandos, along with other American and Afghan troops, to flush out a Taliban commander in Wardak.

Families of some of the victims have alleged the military has not revealed all the facts of the incident, failed to punish commanders in charge of the operation and mishandled some of the remains of the dead. They have also suspected Afghan soldiers involved in the operation could have passed word to the Taliban of the chopper’s route. But officials sought to counter allegations that have circulated online, saying officers at the time employed the right helicopter and the right tactics and that the remains of the dead were handled with respect.

Taliban fighters atop a building near the designated landing zone fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) at the chopper from nearly head-on, at a distance of less than 250m, said Garry Reid, the Pentagon’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defence for special operations. The close range left “the pilot no chance to perform evasive manoeuvres,” Reid said.

The attack occurred when the American CH-47D Chinook with the call sign “Extortion 17” flew low into the Tangi Valley.

US Army Ranger forces had staged an operation earlier targeting the Taliban figure and the Navy Seals were flown in to try to cut off the escape route of the fleeing commander.

Reid dismissed the possibility that Taliban militants learned about the helicopter’s route beforehand, saying only the Navy Seals and air crew knew the flight route and landing zone.

A C-130 aircraft, a Predator drone and two Apache helicopters had flown over the designated landing area minutes earlier and failed to detect the Taliban fighters nearby, he said.              AFP