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Defense officials: Fewer SEALs died in crash than originally believed

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
  • There were a total of 22 Navy personnel on the helicopter
  • Of those, 17 were SEALs -- 15 from a top-secret unit, 2 from another unit
  • The 5 other Navy personnel were so-called conventional forces
  • Others aboard included 3 Air Force and 5 Army personnel, and 8 Afghans

Washington (CNN) -- The Pentagon will put the death toll of Navy SEALs in last weekend's downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan at 17, according to two Defense Department officials.

The original figure provided to the news media by Pentagon sources for the number of SEALs killed was 22.

Officials say further information that has come in also indicates that not all of the SEALs were assigned to a top-secret Naval unit as they originally said.

Officials now say the following: There were 22 Navy personnel on the helicopter. Of that number, 15 were SEALs belonging to the top-secret unit that conducted the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Two others were SEALs assigned to a regular Naval special operations unit.

Five additional Navy personnel were so-called conventional forces with particular specialties who regularly worked with the SEALs. One official said that included a dog handler and some communications specialists.

The other eight U.S. troops killed were three Air Force forward air controllers and five Army helicopter crew members.

Multiple military officials had said for days there were 22 SEALs among the dead, and all were members of the same overall unit that killed Bin Laden.

One official adamantly insisted the information indicating otherwise came to the Pentagon Tuesday night and there was no intent to deceive or withhold information. "The SEALs considered everyone part of their team" the official said.

Eight Afghan pesonnel -- a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan troops -- also were among the 38 people killed in the crash.