Skip to main content

Pentagon probes whether U.S. troops killed by enemy fire

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
December 18, 2013 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. forces were in helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan
  • Pentagon received report that troops came under mortar fire after crash
  • Officials say no conclusions reached yet in crash initially blamed on mechanical failure
  • Tuesday's toll worst single-day for U.S. troops since August 2012

(CNN) -- The Pentagon urgently investigated whether six American troops killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday may have died from enemy fire after their helicopter crashed, rather than from the crash itself, two senior U.S. officials said.

"We do not know how those killed were killed," one of the officials told CNN. "It's unclear if it was the crash or contact with the enemy after the helo came down."

One person survived.

It was the single-deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since a helicopter wreck killed seven Americans and four Afghans in August 2012.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said initial reporting indicated that six members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed.

Military officials cited potential mechanical failure and said at the time there was no indication of enemy activity in the area where NATO forces move around frequently.

Later in the day, questions surfaced about whether the troops may have actually survived the crash and then came under mortar fire.

"We believe there was some sort of enemy engagement once the helicopter crashed," one of the officials said.

Both officials declined to be named because of uncertainty over what occurred. They emphasized strongly there had been no conclusion about the report of enemy fire.

Crew members of a second helicopter flying in the area would be interviewed.

Investigators also would look at the wreckage and conduct autopsies for clues.

Names of those killed were not released.

Interactive: Coalition troops killed in Afghanistan, Iraq

Tuesday's incident raised to 129 the number of U.S. troops who died in 2013 while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. The vast majority were lost in Afghanistan.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Ric Ward contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1758 GMT (0158 HKT)
The sights couldn't be sadder: Animals killed or suffering through war in Gaza.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
They are the faces of a community on the run. Photographer Warzer Jaff documents the plight of the Yazidis.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
A cameraman films a massive New York City subway rat charging at him and attacking him. WPIX reports.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT