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SEALS aboard copter were on rescue mission

BY PATRICK QUINN

AND KIMBERLY DOZIER

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The 30 American service members, most of them elite Navy SEALs, who died when their helicopter was shot down had rushed to help Army Rangers who had come under fire, two U.S. officials said yesterday.

The heavy loss shows that covert tactics carry huge risks even after the huge success of the SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden more than three months ago. Some of the SEALs who died Saturday were from the same unit that killed bin Laden, although none took part in that mission.

In a bloody two days for foreign forces, another four NATO troops were killed in two separate attacks Sunday in the east and the south, the coalition said. Two French soldiers were killed and five wounded under attack by insurgents in Kapisa's remote Tagab valley. There was no immediate confirmation of the nationalities of the other two.

The U.S.-led coalition plans to rely more on special operations missions as it reduces the overall number of combat troops by the end of 2014.

This weekend, the rescue team had subdued attackers who had pinned down the Rangers and were departing in their Chinook helicopter when the aircraft was apparently hit, one of the officials said.

Thirty Americans and eight Afghans were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war in Afghanistan. The Rangers, special operations forces who work regularly with the SEALs, secured the crash site in the Tangi Joy Zarin area of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul, the other official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the investigation is continuing. The SEAL mission was first reported by CNN.

NATO was recovering the remains of the twin-rotor Chinook helicopter. A current and a former U.S. official said the Americans included 22 SEALs, three Air Force combat controllers and a dog handler and his dog. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because military officials were still notifying the families of the dead.

Eight Taliban fighters were also killed in the battle, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Afghanistan has more U.S. special operations troops, about 10,000, than any other theater of war. The forces, often joined by Afghan troops, are among the most effective weapons in the coalition's arsenal, conducting surveillance, infiltration and capture missions and night raids.

From April to July this year, 2,832 special operations raids captured 2,941 insurgents and killed 834, twice as many as during the same time period last year, according to NATO.

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