Wednesday 11 December 2019

American 'special ops' soldier killed in battle with Taliban

Afghan men carry a wounded man at the site of an explosion near Kabul airport in Afghanistan, yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Afghan men carry a wounded man at the site of an explosion near Kabul airport in Afghanistan, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

David Lawler Washington

One US special operations soldier has been killed in Afghanistan with at least two others wounded.

A rescue helicopter that tried to reach them was forced to make an emergency landing after encountering mortar fire, according to reports.

The soldiers had been taking part in a counter-terrorism operation near the town of Marjah, in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, which has been the site of heavy fighting with the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman claimed the group shot down a US helicopter during the battle.

According to the Pentagon, however, the helicopter was not shot down but was forced to make an emergency landing amid mortar fire.

That helicopter reportedly landed safely in Marjah but was, at least initially, unable to reach the wounded soldiers.

A US Army spokesman confirmed that a soldier had been killed.

"One US service member died as a result of wounds sustained during operations near Marja in Helmand Province today. Additionally, two US service members were wounded," Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner said in a statement.

Afghan Army soldiers were also reportedly wounded in the operation.

The Taliban in recent weeks have focused their efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the US has countered with special operations forces working with Afghan troops.

In a brief written statement announcing the three US casualties, the US military command in Kabul said one died of wounds sustained "during operations" in Marjah, and that two were wounded.

The statement did not identify their service branch. Two US officials said they were special operation troops. "We are deeply saddened by this loss," said Brigadier Shoffner.

Speaking for General John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Brig Gen Shoffner said: "Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved."

A US helicopter was sent to evacuate the casualties but did not immediately take off because of an unspecified problem. In Kabul, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, Navy Lieutenant commander Ron Flesvig, said the helicopter sent to evacuate the casualties had landed with a mechanical problem.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad yesterday, it was announced that Isil's territory had shrunk by 40pc from its maximum expansion in Iraq, and by 20pc in Syria in 2015.

International forces in the US-led coalition have pushed Isil out of several cities.

There was no immediate comment from the hardline Islamist group on the estimates from the coalition, made up of countries including Britain, France and Jordan that have been bombing its positions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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