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U.S. Chopper Shot Down in East Afghanistan Fighting

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2002 – A U.S. military helicopter was downed by enemy fire early today during fierce fighting in eastern Afghanistan, DoD spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said today.

The MH-47 helicopter "came under fire" and crashed in the early hours, local time, she said, adding that "small numbers" of U.S. troops were killed. Afghanistan is 9.5 hours ahead of the United States.

Since Saturday, Clarke noted, Afghan and coalition forces have been battling hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban troops holed up in the mountains south of the city of Gardez. One American and several allied Afghan fighters died in the fighting March 3.

She said the Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are "hard core" and putting up "fierce resistance." More than 1,000 U.S. troops are involved in the battle, and about "three dozen" have been wounded, she added.

"Clearly, this is the largest military operation we've been engaged in thus far (in Afghanistan)," with the largest combat losses, Clarke noted.

She said it's "a terrible tragedy" to lose anybody, adding that U.S. war planners had expected remnant Al Qaeda and Taliban forces would be tough to subdue.

Military operations in eastern Afghanistan "are ongoing" and will continue "for some time," she concluded.

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