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Soldiers pray at the coffins of two colleagues killed in Friday's strike. Steve Ruark/AP

Taliban forces who downed US helicopter 'killed by air strikes'

The US military says the insurgents who killed 38 US and Afghani troops have themselves been killed by F16 fighter jets.

AN AIR STRIKE by international forces has killed the Taliban insurgents – including the militant who launched the rocket-propelled grenade – responsible for downing a US helicopter during the weekend, in a crash that killed 38 troops.

F16 fighter jets killed the insurgents responsible on Monday, according to the top US commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps general John Allen.

The military provided few details to back up its claim, but Allen said he was confident the air strike killed fewer than 10 insurgents involved in the attack on the US Chinook helicopter.

“All of these operations generate intelligence,” Allen said – including about those who fled the site of the crash.

“We tracked them as we would in the aftermath of any operation and [...] in the aftermath of that, we have achieved certainty that they, in fact, were killed,” Allen said. He spoke by video from his Kabul headquarters.

In a separate statement, the military said the strike killed a Taliban leader and the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter. That statement also cited intelligence gathered on the ground, but did not provide further details.

The claim of success comes amid fears that Afghanistan is far from stable and remains deadly for the forces that remain after US withdrawal. As US troops thin out, special operations forces like those killed in Saturday’s helicopter crash are likely to make up a greater part of the US force in Afghanistan.

“This does not ease our loss, but we must and we will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemy,” Allen said. The crash was the deadliest single loss for US forces in the 10-year Afghan war.

The military is still seeking the top insurgent leader that troops were going after in Saturday’s mission, Allen said.

Afghanistan has more US special operations troops – about 10,000 – than any other theater of war. From April to July this year, 2,832 special operations raids captured 2,941 insurgents and killed 834, twice as many as during the same time period last year, according to NATO.

Read: Dozens of coalition troops killed in helicopter attack in Afghanistan

More: Killed US troops ‘were from unit which took out Osama bin Laden’

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