A total of 31 members of the U.S. special forces have died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan along with seven Afghans, a statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said Saturday.
"The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai expressed condolences over a NATO helicopter crash and the deaths of 31 members of U.S. special forces," the statement said.
Afghan provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.
NATO said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation Saturday at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure.
"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts."
NATO said insurgents were in the area at the time of the crash.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed the downed aircraft was a U.S. military helicopter and that the Taliban fighters had brought it down with a rocket attack.
In a written statement released Saturday, Mujahid said that NATO attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgent fighters were gathering Friday night.
Mujahid said the Taliban fired on NATO and downed the helicopter, killing all the crew. He said eight insurgents also died. The Taliban often exaggerates casualty numbers in their statements to the media.
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