DOVER, Delaware — President Barack Obama made a solemn trip to a Delaware air base Tuesday to honor unidentified remains of 30 US servicemen which were returned home after a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Obama made the unannounced visit after two C-17 military aircraft landed carrying remains of those killed Saturday on a special forces mission in the deadliest single loss for US troops in the Afghan war.
An Afghan official said Monday that the Taliban lured US forces into an elaborate trap to shoot down the Chinook helicopter, which was carrying Navy SEALS commandos from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Despite requests from news organizations, the ceremony at Dover was closed to the media because the remains had yet to be identified.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, top military officer Admiral Mike Mullen and US Navy chief Admiral Gary Roughhead joined Obama to honor the dead and the president was expected to meet families of the fallen.
Obama lifted a blanket ban on media coverage of the return of dead soldiers in 2009, leaving the choice up to families of fallen troops, and had previously attended a “dignified transfer” ceremony of dead soldiers.
But the Pentagon said the 30 Americans killed Friday could not be identified “due to the catastrophic nature of the crash,” and that next-of-kin were not in a position to grant approval for media access to the transfer ceremony.
The toll from the attack on the Chinook, included 22 SEALs, three US Air Force special forces and five US Army personnel. Seven Afghan troops and an interpreter were also killed.
On Monday, Obama said the loss of the 30 American troops would motivate their colleagues.
“I know that our troops will continue the hard work of transitioning to a stronger Afghan government and ensuring that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists. We will press on and succeed,” the US president said.
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