US says Taliban who shot at US helicopter dead

General John Allen: "We will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemy"

A Nato air strike has killed the Taliban forces who shot down a Chinook helicopter that crashed and killed 38 US and Afghan personnel, Nato has said.

General John Allen, US forces commander in Afghanistan, said those responsible had been targeted on Monday by an F-16.

Nato said the raid had killed a Taliban leader and the insurgent who fired at the military helicopter on Saturday.

The Taliban have said they shot down the aircraft, although Nato did not explicitly confirm that.

The alliance said in a statement only that the dead insurgent had fired the shot "associated" with the downing of the CH-47 in Wardak province, west of Kabul.

Also killed was Mullah Mohibullah, a Taliban leader who commanded a dozen fighters, the US military said.

Many of those killed in the helicopter crash were members of Seal Team Six, the elite special forces unit whose members undertook the May raid into Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

'Kinetic strike'

The dead also included Afghan commandos, an Afghan civilian interpreter, US Air Force personnel, a dog handler and the Chinook crew.

Start Quote

We've run more than a couple of thousand of these night operations over the last year”

End Quote Gen John Allen US commander

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Gen Allen said that after the helicopter crash, international forces sought out the insurgents and killed them.

"We dealt with them in a kinetic strike," he said.

Detailing Saturday's operation, Gen Allen said Nato-led forces had been hunting a Taliban leader in Wardak's Tangi Valley.

The Chinook helicopter was sent to pursue insurgents fleeing a firefight with Army Rangers, he added.

But the insurgents shot at the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, Gen Allen said.

US forces later tracked down the Taliban and called in an F-16 aircraft to carry out an air strike on Monday, he added.

Gen Allen said an investigation into the crash would determine whether small arms had also been fired at the Chinook.

"We've run more than a couple of thousand of these night operations over the last year, and this is the only occasion where this has occurred," he said.

Gen Allen said the Taliban leader originally targeted in Saturday's mission had not been killed in Monday's air raid.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, visited an air base in Delaware, where the remains of 30 US servicemen killed in the crash were repatriated.

The US is relying more on special forces to fight the war in Afghanistan, carrying out night raids against insurgent leaders and conducting surveillance operations.

There are some 140,000 foreign troops - about 100,000 of them American - in Afghanistan, targeting the Taliban and training local troops to take over security.

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