KABUL, Afghanistan — The retribution wasn't long in coming.
An American airstrike killed the Taliban insurgents whose attack caused a helicopter crash that killed 22 Navy SEALs and eight other U.S. service members, military officials in Kabul and Washington said Wednesday.
However, Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon that the main Taliban leader in the area remained at large. He did not identify the insurgent commander.
Military officials had said previously that the CH-47 Chinook helicopter went down Saturday as the SEALs were rushing to aid fellow elite troops. They were identified as U.S. Army Rangers who had come under insurgent fire while on a night raid in pursuit of a Taliban target.
Special operations forces tracked down a group of "less than 10" insurgents and called in an airstrike from an F-16 fighter jet, Allen said. NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said the strike took place early Tuesday in the Chak district of Wardak province, close to the district where the helicopter went down.
Among those killed was a senior operative in the area and the man whose firing, apparently with a rocket-propelled grenade, brought down the chopper, the military said.
The downing Saturday of the CH-47, which killed seven Afghan commandos in addition to the 30 American troops and an interpreter, represented the worst loss of military lives in a single incident in the nearly 10-year-old war.
The senior Taliban operative killed in Tuesday's raid was identified as Mullah Mohibullah, described as a "key facilitator" of attacks in the Tangi Valley, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul. He had about a dozen fighters under his command, the military said.
Mohibullah and his group of fighters were located after an "exhaustive manhunt" in Wardak that included tips from villagers, according to the military statement. It said the insurgents were trying to flee the country, presumably to Pakistan, when the U.S. raid occurred.
NATO said the airstrike was called in after insurgents were tracked to a wooded area, and that no civilians were hurt in the bombardment. The Afghan police chief in Wardak, Gen. Abdul Qayoom Baqizoi, said his forces had aided in intelligence-gathering that led to the U.S. strike.