Insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook helicopter during an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 37 people on board, a coalition military official said on Saturday. It was believed to be the deadliest helicopter crash in the nearly decade-long war, punctuating a surge of violence across the country even as American and NATO forces begin a modest drawdown of troops.
Afghan military officials put the death toll at 38, including 31 Americans and 7 Afghan commandos. President Hamid Karzai’s office, in a statement, described the American casualties as members of the Special Operations forces. The coalition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it, confirmed that most of the dead were NATO forces, but could not immediately identify their nationalities or the units to which they belonged.
“The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has expressed his condolences to the U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims,” Mr. Karzai’s office said in the statement.
The helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Tangi Valley of the Wardak Province just west of Kabul, the coalition official said. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.