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Ill-fated mission targeted Taliban leader

KABUL, Afghanistan — An ill-fated Aug. 6 mission that ended in the deaths of 38 Afghan and U.S. service members when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed was targeting a Taliban leader in the Sayyidabad district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials reported today.

The helicopter reportedly was fired on by an insurgent rocket-propelled grenade while transporting the U.S. service members and Afghan commandos to the scene of an engagement between ISAF and insurgent forces, officials said.

The U.S. service members on board included five aircrew members and 25 personnel from the U.S. Special Operations Command, they added.

The operation began as a security search for a Taliban leader responsible for insurgent operations in the nearby Tangi Valley, officials said.

After commencing the search, the initial security force on the ground observed several insurgents armed with rocket propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles moving through the area.

The security force and insurgents exchanged small-arms fire, resulting in several enemies killed. As the insurgents continued to fire, the combined force on the ground requested additional forces to assist the operation.

Those additional personnel were in-bound to the scene when the CH-47 carrying them crashed, killing all on board.

Immediately following the crash, the forces already on the ground broke contact with the insurgents and moved to the crash site to secure the scene and search for survivors.

Additional security elements deployed from a nearby forward operating base to augment the search and security efforts.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash.