An American military helicopter that crashed Sept. 25 in Afghanistan was apparently brought down by enemy fire, not as the result of a mechanical failure, as first reported by the Army, officials said this week.
Four National Guard soldiers from Nevada and Oregon, along with an active-duty soldier from Germany, were killed in the crash, which occurred in rugged terrain in southern Afghanistan.
In the days after the incident, U.S. military officials in Afghanistan said there were “no indications” enemy fire played a role in the crash. The CH-47 Chinook helicopter was on the return leg of a mission to insert troops on a combat mission, officials said.
This week, however, National Guard officials in Nevada said the early results of an investigation indicated the helicopter was shot down.
“After talking to other people in the area and looking at the wreckage, the conclusion was that it was hostile fire. It might have been a guy with a rifle who happened to take a lucky shot or a [rocket-propelled grenade]. We just don’t know,” Capt. April Conway, a Nevada Army National Guard spokeswoman, told several news organizations.
The first reports of enemy fire being the cause of the crash came in a statement of condolence from Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, who said the aircraft went down “when a surface-to-air missile was fired on their CH-47 helicopter during an extraction-and-fill mission, according to initial reports.”
Kulongoski’s office released that statement on Sept. 26.
A purported Taliban spokesman — who has since been captured in Pakistan — also called several news organizations at the time to claim that insurgents had shot down the Chinook.
If confirmed, it would be at least the third time a U.S. military helicopter has been shot down in Afghanistan.
The first was during Operation Anaconda in 2002. During that fight, a Chinook carrying special operations troops was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and forced into an emergency landing. Six servicemembers were killed in an attempt to retrieve a seventh who had been killed after being knocked out of the helicopter when it was hit.
The second incident occurred on June 28, when insurgents shot down a special operations helicopter that was transporting Navy SEALs in an attempt to rescue another SEAL team caught in a pitched eastern Afghanistan battle.
That crash killed 17 servicemembers.