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American Forces Press Service

Military Says 17 Were Aboard Crashed Chinook, Fates Unknown

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2005 Seventeen servicemembers were on board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that crashed in mountainous terrain west of Asadabad, Afghanistan, June 28, military officials said today.

Initial reports indicate the crash may have been caused by hostile fire. The status of the servicemembers is unknown, officials said.

Coalition and Afghan National Army forces quickly moved into position around the crash to block any enemy movement toward or away from the site, officials said. Coalition aircraft remain overhead.

The helicopter was transporting forces into the area as part of Operation Red Wing, which is part of the enduring fight to defeat al Qaeda militants and deny them influence in Kunar province, officials said.

Combined Forces Command Afghanistan officials said recent enemy activity in the area has been described as a series of harassing attacks and intelligence-gathering activities against Afghan and U.S. forces.

"This is a tragic event for all of us, and our hearts and prayers go out to the families, loved ones and servicemembers still fighting in the area," said Army Brig. Gen. Greg Champion, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76. "Our courage and commitment to America's fight in the global war on terror will not waver. This incident will only further our resolve to defeat the enemies of peace."

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

In other news from Afghanistan, a U.S. servicemember was reported missing west of Asadabad June 25 after the vehicle he was traveling in began to slide down an embankment on the Pech River.

Search and rescue efforts are under way, with coalition aircraft assisting, officials said.

The vehicle was traveling alongside the Pech River, which has swollen due to snowmelt in recent days, when the road began to give way and the cargo Humvee began to slide toward the water, a statement from CFCA said. All other vehicle occupants escaped before the road gave way. The missing servicemember is believed to have fallen into the river in his effort to escape the vehicle.

Initial estimates indicate the river was running at 20 to 25 miles per hour and the water temperature was 50 degrees.

"We are doing everything we can to find our missing comrade," said Army Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force 76. "No effort is being spared in our attempts to find this individual. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women conducting these rescue efforts and for the family of the missing individual."

The name of the missing servicemember is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

(Compiled from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news releases.)

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