By CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Adam Levine
Coalition forces in Afghanistan killed the Taliban insurgents involved in the downing last weekend of the Chinook helicopter, which killed 38 special forces, support and Afghan troops, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said on Wednesday.
ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen, said the attack happen sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning in Afghanistan. "Coalition forces killed the Taliban insurgents responsible for this attack against the helicopter, which we assess was an RPG round. This action was a continuation of the original mission," said Allen, who replaced Gen. David Petraeus last month as the overall US commander in Afghanistan. "This does not ease our loss, but we must and we will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemy."
On the night of the crash, the CH-47 carried Special Operations Forces, including some two dozen Navy SEALs, intended to pursue insurgents from a Taliban network who were fleeing an engagement in which six militants had already been killed.
In a news release sent out just as Allen began briefing reporters, ISAF said “The strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of 38 Afghan and coalition service members. “
Allen said Mohibullah was not the Taliban leader who the SEALs were after on the night of August 6th when their helicopter crashed, but he would not say who the leader was.
Mohibullah, the unnamed fighter who fired the RPG that apparently brought down the helicopter, and several other Taliban fighters were killed by precision air strikes delivered by an F-16 as they tried to flee Afghanistan through the Chak District not far from where the SEALs and their fellow troops died. "After an exhaustive manhunt, Special Operations forces located Mullah Mohibullah and the shooter after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens," the news release from ISAF said.
An investigation of the downing of the Chinook is being led by Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, the Deputy Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
While Allen said the early assessment was that it was an RPG or rocket propelled grenade that hit the helicopter, he acknowledged for the first time that the Chinook took fire from several Taliban locations, mostly from small arms fire, on its approach to its landing zone. He did not know yet if any of the small arms fire hit the helicopter. "The purpose of the investigation ultimately is to assess that it was in fact an RPG and ultimately to assess if small arms fire contributed to the crash of this aircraft. And so that will come out in the investigation."