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RESPONSE TO TERROR

14 U.S. Soldiers Injured in Copter Crash Landing

January 29, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

WASHINGTON — Fourteen soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were injured Monday when their transport helicopter crashed while landing in rough terrain in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said.

No one was killed and none of the injuries were life-threatening, officials said. The injured were flown to a medical facility at Bagram air base north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter made what officials described as a "hard landing" near the city of Khowst, injuring 14 of the 24 people aboard and severely damaging the aircraft.

Officials said the cause of the early-evening accident was under investigation.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Monday denied reports by Afghan villagers that a compound raided by U.S. Special Forces soldiers last week was actually run by non-Taliban local residents. Countering residents' reports that civilians had been killed in the raid, Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said intelligence reports had determined that those inside the compound had been Taliban.

That assumption appeared confirmed when they fired on the U.S. soldiers who raided the compound, north of the city of Kandahar. Intelligence spotters had seen stolen United Nations vehicles moving in and out of the site at night, Stufflebeem said.

"This had the clear indications of being a legitimate military target, based on the indicators that we had been observing over time," Stufflebeem said. The site was guarded "much like compounds we have seen where Taliban and Al Qaeda have gathered before."

Despite reports that civilian buildings were bombed, Stufflebeem said only an ammunition depot was struck by U.S. warplanes, and it was hit after soldiers had cleared the compound. Fifteen suspected Taliban fighters were killed, and 27 were taken into custody.

Asked about reports that some of the dead were bound by plastic restraints, Stufflebeem said the Taliban soldiers had captives in detention.

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