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All 16 U.S. servicemembers aboard a downed helicopter in Afghanistan have been killed and their bodies recovered, the U.S. military says.

At a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Lt. Gen. James Conway, J-3, Joint Chiefs of Staff said that there were 16 servicemembers confirmed dead in the MH-47 crash in Afghanistan, but that “we don’t have anybody classified as missing at this point.”

Military officials had said 17 servicemembers were aboard the Chinook when it went down after being fired upon Tuesday as it approached a landing zone. Bad weather and harsh terrain prevented ground forces from reaching the site Wednesday, but teams had secured the area by Thursday.

“This is the first one shot down in Afghanistan. We’ve lost others due to the poor flight conditions there. But this is the first one shot down — with an RPG. That’s a pretty lucky shot,” Conway said.

Asked whether the shoot-down pointed to a resurgence of the Taliban or its effectiveness, Conway said, “No. This is the first helicopter we’ve had shot down there. We’ve lost other helicopters due to weather.”

Fighting in Operation Red Wing, the mission to which the downed Chinook was reportedly taking a SEAL team as reinforcements, is continuing in the area around Asadaban where the incident occurred, the military said.

A reputed Taliban spokesman has claimed the deposed religious militia shot down the Chinook.

Some family members in the United States have been informed their loved ones were killed in the incident. A story that appeared Thursday in the Nashville Tennessean quoted family members of James W. “Tre” Ponder III as saying the Pentagon had informed them he was among the dead.

Family members declined to give his unit, but confirmed he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. Other parts of the unit are at Hunter Army Air Field in Georgia and in South Korea.

On Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed the aircraft was an MH-47, the special operations version of the Chinook, a dual-rotor transport used widely in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only Army unit that flies the MH-47 is the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the majority of which is stationed at Fort Campbell.

In Germany, there was no word Thursday as to whether the Army’s Disaster Mortuary Affairs Response Team has been dispatched or will be sent to the crash site, said Master Sgt. Derrick Crawford, a 21st Theater Support Command spokesman. The team responds to U.S. military crash sites around the world.

Most recently, the response team spent two weeks in early April scouring wreckage for the remains of nine airmen killed in the crash of an -130H Combat Talon II near Rovia, Albania.

The Associated Press and Steve Mraz and Patrick Dickson of Stars and Stripes contributed to this report.


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