The Pentagon said on Thursday that the US forces had recovered the bodies of 16 American soldiers killed in a US helicopter crash earlier this week in eastern Afghanistan.

"At this point, we have recovered all 16 bodies of those servicemen who were on board the MH-47 helicopter that crashed on Tuesday," Marine Corps Lieutenant-General James Conway, director of operations for the US military's Joint Staff, told a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.

 

"Positive identification and family notification are under way and expected to be completed soon," Conway said.

 

The remains of those who perished were being recovered at the site in eastern Afghanistan where the MH-47 chopper went down on Tuesday while ferrying troops to a battle against fighters, the military said in a statement.

 

Taliban claim

 

The military had earlier reported 17 people on board.

 

A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, and also said rebels had a video of the attack
 

Eight Navy SEALS were among
the 16 who died in the crash

No such video has yet been released, however, and the spokesman was unreachable on Thursday.

 

The 16 on the helicopter comprised eight Navy SEALs and eight Army air crew, a US official said in Washington.

 

A 17th person that was listed on the helicopter's manifest was believed not to have boarded the aircraft, two US officials said.

 

All the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military had made no formal announcement.

A storm hampered rescuers from reaching the wreckage.
 
Recovery operations have also been made difficult by the rugged terrain of the remote crash site, reachable only by foot, and the continued combat with anti-government fighters.

 

O'Hara said "there are still bad guys in the area" around the crash site and that troops were having to "do a recovery and a tactical operation at the same time".