US soldiers missing in Afghanistan; Chinook helicopter shot down

The fate of several U.S. soldiers remains unclear after U.S. military found the wreckage of a special forces helicopter shot down earlier this week in eastern Afghanistan.

A small team of U.S. soldiers was missing in the same mountains in eastern Afghanistan where a special forces helicopter was shot down earlier this week, and U.S. forces are using "every available asset" to find them, a U.S. military spokesman said Friday, reports the AP.

The MH-47 Chinook helicopter - with 16 people on board who all died in the crash - had gone into the mountains Tuesday to "extract the soldiers." The team on the ground has been missing since the chopper was shot down, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said.

O'Hara said U.S. forces were using "every available asset" to search for the missing troops.

"Until we find our guys, they are still listed as unaccounted for and everything we got in that area is oriented on finding the missing men," he said.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, meanwhile, claimed the rebels had captured a U.S. soldier in the area, near the town of Asadabad, close to the Pakistani border.

"One high-ranking American has been captured in fighting in the same area as the helicopter went down," he told The Associated Press.

Reacting to the claim, O'Hara said, "We have no proof or evidence indicating anything other than the soldiers are missing."

Earlier Hakimi claimed that the Taliban forces shot the helicopter down. The attack had been filmed and the video would be released to the media, Hakimi added.

The helicopter was apparently downed by an insurgent's "lucky shot" with a rocket-propelled grenade, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

"Indications are that it was an RPG, which is a pretty lucky shot, honestly, against a moving helicopter," Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in a Pentagon briefing.

Conway emphasized that military officials did not believe the helicopter downing represented an advancement in the abilities of insurgents.

"There's no indication that there are more sophisticated … ground-to-air systems … that are involved," he said. "I don't see it as an increased level of sophistication," The LA Times quoted Conway as saying.

It should be noticed that according to The Washington Times, Gen. Conway said the military did not yet have a full account of all ground troops involved in the operation, although "we do not have any people classified as missing at this point."

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