KABUL, Afghanistan — An American airstrike killed the Taliban insurgents responsible for downing a helicopter and taking the lives of 22 Navy SEALs and eight other U.S. service members, Western military officials said Wednesday.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the strike on Tuesday in the Chak district of Wardak province, close to the district where the Chinook helicopter was shot down, killed the ringleader of Taliban operations in the area, as well as the man who was determined to have been the shooter and several other insurgents.
The downing Saturday of the CH-47, which killed seven Afghan commandos in addition to the American troops and an interpreter, represented the worst loss of military lives in a single incident in the nearly 10-year-old war.
Killed in the U.S. airstrike was a Taliban leader identified as Mullah Mohibullah, who was described as a "key facilitator" of Taliban operations in the Tangi Valley, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul. He had about a dozen fighters under his command, the military said.
Mohibullah replaced a Taliban leader who had been killed in an earlier U.S. operation.
Mohibullah and the man who shot down the helicopter were located after an "exhaustive manhunt" that included tips from villagers, according to the military statement. It said the insurgents were trying to flee the country.
Although unofficial descriptions from military officials have consistently indicated that the Chinook was shot down, the military said the cause of the crash formally remained under investigation.
"While it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash, it did take fire from several insurgent locations on its approach," the ISAF statement said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization force said the airstrike was called in after the insurgents were tracked to a wooded area, and that no civilians were hurt.
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