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Six Airmen Die in Afghan Mercy Mission Crash; Valiant Strike Continues

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2003 – An Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed near Ghazni, Afghanistan, March 23, killing all aboard, said Combined Joint Task Force-180 officials in Bagram.

Six Air Force personnel died in the crash, task force spokesman Army Col. Roger King said. Names of the dead are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. Enemy fire was not a factor in the crash, officials said.

The helicopter crew was on its way to evacuate two Afghan children for medical treatment in the U.S. facilities in Bagram, King said. One child has a head injury; the other, an eye injury. Both children arrived safely in Bagram today, he said.

In a separate incident, U.S. Special Forces soldiers came under attack from a group of 10 to 20 enemy personnel March 23 near Gardez. Apache helicopters from Coalition Task Force 82 provided close-air support. There were no coalition casualties, King said, and soldiers suspect they killed at least one enemy fighter.

Operation Valiant Strike continues in the Sami Ghar Mountains east of Kandahar. Roughly 600 coalition forces are searching villages and cave complexes for al Qaeda and remnant Taliban fighters, intelligence and equipment.

Soldiers found a large cache of weapons inside a walled compound in the village of Sekangarkay. The cache included rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, launchers, rifles, heavy machine guns and ammunition.

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