KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A helicopter crash in Afghanistan's eastern Wardak province killed 31 U.S. special operation troops and seven Afghan soldiers, the country's president said Saturday. It was the highest number of American casualties recorded in a single incident in the decade-long war.
President Hamid Karzai sent his condolences to President Barack Obama, according to a statement issued by his office.
"A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province," Karzai said in the statement, adding that 31 American special operations troops were killed. "President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to Barack Obama."
The Taliban claimed to have brought the helicopter down with a rocket attack, but they have been known to make exaggerated claims in the past.
NATO confirmed the overnight crash and said there "was enemy activity in the area." But it said it was still investigating the cause. The alliance was conducting a recovery operation at the site, it said, without releasing details or a casualty figure.
"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts." The helicopter was a twin-rotor Chinook, which are used for transport, said an official at NATO headquarters in Brussels, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
The helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, said a provincial government spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that NATO had attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgents were gathering Friday night, killing eight fighters. The Taliban then downed the helicopter. he said.