Nato strike kills Taliban chief and insurgent who shot down helicopter

The US has gotten revenge for the deaths of 38 men killed when the Taliban shot down a helicopter last week. Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot that felled the Chinook were killed in an air strike Tuesday, Nato forces said.
KABUL // A Nato air strike killed the Taliban fighters involved in bringing down a US helicopter in Afghanistan last week, the coalition said yesterday, in an operation avenging the crash that marked the deadliest day for foreign forces since the war began 10 years ago.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot that felled the Chinook transport helicopter carrying 38 people, including 30 US troops on Saturday, were killed in an air strike in Wardak province on Tuesday, Nato forces said.

The coalition said it located the insurgents in a "wooded area" following a manhunt based on multiple intelligence leads.

The two men were trying to flee the country to avoid capture, and several other Taliban associates were also killed in the strike, Nato said.

Residents of Wardak said US troops conducted search operations across the Tangi Valley in the days following the crash, blockading some areas and imposing a curfew on villages.

"They cut the mobile phone lines for two days, and they wouldn't let people come or go from the valley," said Dr Roshanak Wardak, hospital chief in Sayd Abad district, where the crash took place.

There were no Nato or civilian deaths or injuries from the search operations and the curfew was later lifted, Dr Wardak said.

Friday night, US Special Operations Forces were carrying out a raid against a high-level Taliban target at an insurgent hideout in Sayd Abad in the Tangi Valley areas.

When US forces got bogged down in a firefight with insurgents, they called for reinforcements

US Navy Seals, many of whom belonged to the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, arrived in the Chinook.

Nato said in the statement that while it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash, the chopper did take fire from "several insurgent locations" on its approach.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claims insurgents shot down the Chinook with a weapon "similar to a rocket-propelled grenade".

Because the CH-47 transport aircraft can fit up to 40 troops, it makes an easy target for insurgents in the mountains, analysts say.

Still, Nato troops maintain unparalleled air supremacy over the poorly armed insurgents, and observers are calling the Taliban strike a one-off event that does not signify a boost in insurgent battlefield capability.

"This is propaganda what the Taliban are saying about acquiring a new weapon," said one commander of the Afghan Local Police, speaking on condition of anonymity.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Published: August 11, 2011 04:00 AM

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