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Hunt for missing US ground troops

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Hunt for missing US ground troops

US forces are searching for soldiers who are still missing in Afghanistan three days after a helicopter was shot down on a mission to support them.

The US military has reason to hope the soldiers have not been killed or captured, the BBC's Andrew North says.

The Taleban say they shot down the aircraft, which was carrying troops to help a reconnaissance unit in the area.

All 16 soldiers on board died, in the worst single US combat-related loss since invading Afghanistan in 2001.

A man claiming to speak for Taleban militants said an American had been captured in the area where the helicopter was shot down.

The Chinook was the first US helicopter to be shot down in Afghanistan since March 2002.


Military officials told our correspondent, who is at the main US base in eastern Afghanistan, they had "several indications" that the troops on the ground were still alive, but they would not say what those indications were.

They also refused to say why the unit had not yet been brought to safety.

In Kabul, US military spokesman Col Jim Yonts said: "We do not have eyes on them right now, but there is no reason to believe that they are dead."

Col Yonts would not confirm or deny an earlier claim by the Taleban that its fighters had killed seven US "spies" before the MH-47 helicopter was shot down.

A number of Afghan guides working with the US military are also missing.

The Pentagon said eight soldiers from airborne special forces units and eight navy Seal commandos were killed in Tuesday's crash.

It said 16 people had been on board, not 17 as originally reported. All bodies have been recovered, and the remains are being identified.

'Lucky shot'

Officials say they are still investigating the exact reason why the helicopter came down.

Our correspondent says it seems to have crashed at some distance from the point where it is believed to have been hit by at least one unguided rocket-propelled grenade.

Speaking in Washington, Lt-Gen James Conway, director of operations for the joint chiefs of staff, said: "Indications are that it was an RPG, which is a pretty lucky shot, honestly, against a moving helicopter."

US troops reached the crash site in a remote mountain valley late on Wednesday night.

Bad weather had hampered the search, which has been further complicated by the high altitude of the crash site and continued threat of further militant attacks.

Clashes between US-led forces forces and suspected Taleban and other militants opposed to the Kabul government have been on the increase this year in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Nato plans to take over security across southern Afghanistan next year, gradually relieving the American force.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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I'm not to worried about them. They are the elite fighting force with the best training in our military. The real hardcore guys that go anywhere. If anybody can survive out there for a bit, it would be them all the way! thumbsup.gif

The reason the government isn't releasing where they might be is because of safety for the troops.

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US rescues soldier in Afghanistan

US troops have rescued a special forces soldier missing in eastern Afghanistan for almost a week, US officials say.

A four-man special forces unit disappeared in Konar province on 28 June, and a Chinook helicopter looking for them was later shot down.

The rescued soldier was reported to have avoided capture in the days since his disappearance, US officials said.

The US military has said 16 troops died when the Chinook was hit, a "lucky shot" by suspected Taleban fighters.

The downing of the plane was the biggest single US loss of life in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taleban government in late 2001.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, US military officials said the soldier had evaded the Taleban in the mountainous region throughout the past week.


Attempts to rescue the four-man team after the Chinook crash had been hampered by bad weather.

Bad weather

There has been no word on the fate of the remaining three members of his team, who have reportedly not made radio contact since their disappearance.

Claims by a Taleban spokesman that they had captured the men have been denied by the US.

Names and details of the 16 troops who died on board the Chinook have already been released by the US military.

Escalating violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan has seen some 500 people, mainly suspected militants, killed in recent weeks.

Civilians have been among the casualties, with the US military conceding that some may have died in a bombing raid on Friday in Konar province.

The US has sent additional troops to the province as part of a new operation - Operation Flier - against militants in the region, ahead of parliamentary elections due in September.

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