Afghan ambassador attends remains return ceremony
WASHINGTON (PAN): US President Barack Obama not only paid his last respects to the 30 American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last week, but also saluted the eight Afghan soldiers who died alongside them.
Obama, accompanied by a team of top Pentagon officials, saluted the soldiers' remains on their return to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The attack that brought down the helicopter was the deadliest for foreign troops in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
Thirty of the caskets were draped in US flags and eight in Afghan flags.
In an unusual gesture, the White House invited the Afghan Ambassador to the US, Eklil Hakimi, to attend the ceremony, from which media were barred. The ceremony was also attended by select top Pentagon officials and family members of the fallen soldiers.
Officials said the last remains of the Afghan soldiers will be flown back to Afghanistan once they have been identified and investigations into the incident are concluded.
Van Williams, a spokesman for Dover Air Force base’s mortuary affairs operations, said the helicopter crash “was so horrific” that the remains of they could not be easily identified.
Over the next few days, they will be identified by the mortuary team through DNA, dental records and fingerprints, he said.
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