Ban, Obama saddened by soldiers' death
WASHINGTON (PAN): UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his profound sadness at the death of 31 US and seven Afghan soldiers in a helicopter crash in central Maidan Wardak province.
"The secretary-general is profoundly saddened by the news of the helicopter crash that took the lives of both Afghan and American soldiers in Afghanistan," Ban's spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.
"The secretary-general wishes to convey his deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims and expresses his profound condolences to the governments of Afghanistan and the United States," the statement said.
US President Barack Obama, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen mourned the death of the American and Afghan soldiers.
"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," Obama said, adding they would draw inspiration from their lives.
Panetta said their courage was exemplary, as was their determination to make this a safer world for their countries and for their fellow citizens.
Rasmussen said he was deeply saddened by the deaths. "In this tragic moment I would like to stress NATO's strong solidarity with the American and the Afghan people as well as with their respective governments."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen expressed his deepest condolences to families, friends and colleagues of the US and Afghan soldiers killed in the Taliban attack. "This tragedy is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform continue to make in Afghanistan," he said.
In Kabul, NATO civilian representative's spokesman Dominic Medley said brave and committed men and women from 48 countries are working alongside their Afghan counterparts to make Afghanistan a peaceful and stable country.
"We honour their sacrifice. We are determined to stay the course, especially in this crucial period when Afghan and international security forces are working closer than ever to make transition a success."
The US embassy in Kabul called the soldiers' untimely deaths a loss for all those who are committed to pursuing a lasting peace and a stable, independent Afghanistan. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and to their families who have suffered a terrible loss as a result of this tragic event."
The Taliban claimed responsibility of the attack. US officials said among those killed were more than 20 members of the Navy SEALs team, the group that killed Osama bin Laden during a covert operation in Pakistan's northwestern city of Abbottabad.
"My heart goes out to the families of 31 of our best and bravest service members, who gave their lives today along with seven Afghan counterparts, while serving our country in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice will not be in vain," Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said.
Senator John McCain said: "This tragedy is felt by all Americans, and especially by our men and women in uniform, who continue to do more than their fair share to keep America safe," he said.
Senator Joe Lieberman said: "The Afghan commandos who lost their lives alongside our troops were fighting too for a safer, more secure Afghanistan, which is a vital national security interest for our own country."
Afghan Ambassador to the US, Eklil Hakimi, said the incident once again reminded the world of the tremendous sacrifices the brave soldiers of the two countries were making every day to bring peace and security to their nations and to make the world a safer place.
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