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Military kills Taliban that downed US chopper, official says

August 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A United States military chief in Afghanistan says international forces have killed the Taliban insurgents who downed the helicopter that claimed the lives of 30 American troops over the weekend.

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday that forces learned where the insurgents had fled to and killed fewer than 10 insurgents in an early Monday morning air strike.

Allen added that they're still seeking the top insurgent leader they were going after in Saturday's mission, when the Chinook helilcopter was shot down. Eight Afghan soldiers also died. The U.S. casualties included 22 Navy SEALs.

Saturday's incident was the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.

In a separate statement Wednesday, the military said the Monday strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter.

Allen defended the decision to send in the Chinook loaded with special operations forces to pursue insurgents escaping from the weekend firefight with Army Rangers in a dangerous region of Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan.

While officials believe the helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, Allen said the military's investigation into the crash will also review whether small arms fire or other causes contributed to the crash.

According to officials, the team included 22 Navy SEAL personnel, three Air Force airmen, a five-member Army air crew and a military dog, along with seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter.

The Pentagon said it will release the names of the troops killed - after days of debate and delay.

The release had been in question because the dead were mostly covert special operations forces from the Navy and Air Force. Though some of their names had been made public by loved ones, the Special Operations Command asked the Pentagon not to release them, arguing it was a security risk.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Wednesday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta considered the issue and decided to release the names. Lapan said the names should be made public within 24 hours.

Meantime, President Barack Obama was at Dover Air Force Base Tuesday to pay his respects to the fallen troops, whose remains were flown home in two C-17 cargo planes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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