8 More GIs Missing
In Afghanistan

By Daniel Cooney
Associated Press Writer
Iraqi Resistance organizations on Thursday morning issued a statement in which they denied claims by the former puppet so-called "Iraqi minister of electricity," Ayham as-Samarra'i that the Iraqi Resistance had agreed to negotiate with US occupation forces and to form a political organization.8 More GIs Missing In Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan - A small team of U.S. soldiers was missing Friday in the same mountains where a special forces helicopter was downed three days ago by "a lucky shot," and a military spokesman said American forces were using "every available asset" to find them.
The MH-47 Chinook helicopter - which was carrying 16 people, all of whom died in the crash - went into the eastern mountains Tuesday to extract the soldiers now missing. The ground team has been unaccounted for since the chopper was downed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said.
In central Afghanistan, a provincial governor said 25 people have died in three days of fighting, including nine tribal elders kidnapped and killed by Taliban rebels.
That was yet another troubling sign for a nation that has seen three years of progress toward peace collapse in recent months.
Also Friday, purported Taliban spokesman Mullah Latif Hakimi claimed rebels captured a U.S. soldier near the town of Asadabad, close to the Pakistani border.
"One high-ranking American has been captured in fighting in the same area as the helicopter went down," he told The Associated Press. "I won't give you any more details now."
Reacting to the claim, O'Hara said, "We have no proof or evidence indicating anything other than the soldiers are missing."
Hakimi, who also claimed that insurgents shot down the helicopter, often calls news organizations to take responsibility for attacks, and the information frequently proves exaggerated or untrue. His exact tie to the Taliban leadership is unclear.
O'Hara said U.S. forces were using "every available asset" to search for the missing troops.
"Until we find our guys, they are still listed as unaccounted for and everything we got in that area is oriented on finding the missing men," he said.
The loss of the 16 troops on the chopper was the deadliest single blow to American forces who ousted the Taliban in 2001 and are now fighting an escalating insurgency. The helicopter was ferrying reinforcements for a battle with suspected al-Qaida fighters in a ravine in eastern Kunar province.
Rescuers - struggling against stormy weather, insurgents and the rugged terrain - reached the crash site Thursday, about 36 hours after the chopper went down in high mountains near Asadabad.
All the bodies were recovered and troops are trying to identify the remains, the military said.
The rescue team was still there Friday, recovering chopper parts, U.S. military spokeswoman Sgt. Marina Evans said.
At the Pentagon in Washington, Lt. Gen. James Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said an unguided rocket-propelled grenade appears to have hit the chopper. He called it "a pretty lucky shot against a helicopter."
He said it appeared the troops on board died during the crash and not during fighting on the ground afterward.
In central Uruzgan province, provincial Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan reported a chain of violence that began when insurgents attacked a police checkpoint Wednesday, and a subsequent hour-long gunbattle left seven rebels dead.
On Thursday, the militants assaulted a nearby village, kidnapping nine tribal elders and a 10-year-old boy, he said.
All nine were later killed and the boy sent to the authorities with a message: If the police hand over the bodies of the seven slain rebels, the insurgents will release the bodies of the nine, Khan told The Associated Press.
The police did not respond to the offer.
"We have started operations and we are going to hunt them down," the governor said.
On Friday, rebels attacked another Uruzgan police post, and five insurgents and four officers were killed, Khan said.
Only eight months ago, Afghan and U.S. officials were hailing a relatively peaceful presidential election as a sign the Taliban rebellion was finished.
But remnants of the former regime have stepped up attacks, and there are disturbing signs that foreign fighters - including some linked to al-Qaida - might be making a new push to sow an Iraq-style insurgency.
Three months of unprecedented fighting has killed about 465 suspected insurgents, 43 Afghan police and soldiers, 125 civilians, and 29 U.S. troops. Officials predict the situation will deteriorate before legislative elections are held in September.
Afghan officials say the fighters have used the porous border with Pakistan to enter the country, and have called on the Pakistani government to do more to stop them.
The crash was the second of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan this year. On April 6, 15 U.S. service members and three American civilians were killed when their chopper went down in a sandstorm while returning to the main U.S. base at Bagram.
The dead in this week's crash comprised seven soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; one from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.; and eight Navy SEALs assigned to units in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, the U.S. military said in a statement.
"The remains are being identified. The service members' names will be released once their next-of-kin have been notified," the statement said.
Associated Press reporter John J. Lumpkin in Washington contributed to this report.



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