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IMAGES: Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

Last updated on: August 10, 2011 11:32 IST

Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

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United States President Barack Obama paid his last respect to the soldiers killed in Afghanistan when the helicopter that were carrying them exploded mid-air after being reportedly hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

It was a sobering moment for Obama and the accompanying team of top Pentagon officials as they saluted the last remains of the US soldiers killed in the Afghan battlefield over the weekend -- the deadliest attack by the insurgents' post 9/11.

The remains of these dead soldiers were brought to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware by two C-17 planes, with 30 of them draped in US flags and eight in Afghan flags.

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Image: US President Barack Obama participates in the dignified transfer of Army Sgt Dale R Griffin at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

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Van Williams, spokesman, Dover Air Force base's mortuary affairs operations, said the helicopter crash "was so horrific" that the remains of the servicemen 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.

"The crash they were in was so horrific and the state of remains such that there was no easy way to see this was this person or this was that person," Williams said.

The bodies, he added, were loaded into the plane "all together" in the transportation cases, rather than in the usual single container for each service member.

When the planes with the remains arrived at Dover, then a red carpet from hangar was run into back of plane wherein the official party including the President lined in each plane and chaplain said prayer.


Image: Obama along with US soldiers pays tribute to SEALs killed in the crash
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

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Official party came off plane and lined up along red carpet, saluted as each case was brought off by military bearers of various service branches in fatigues. Families of the killed soldiers were in hangar, not on plane.

The atmosphere, according to the White House officials, was very sober, very somber. "It was a very serious atmosphere," the official said.


Image: Obama is greeted by Air Force Col Manson Morris as he steps off Marine One at Dover Air Force Base
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

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Before dignified transfer, Obama met with families for about 70 minutes in a large room called The Landings, large community space. The Afghan ambassador to US was there during the transfer ceremony.

Obama made no remarks during his stay at the Dover Air Force Base. He just walked in and started speaking with first group of family members. Williams said at least three family members for each serviceman were invited to attend the ceremony.


Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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Obama's solemn salute to soldiers killed in Afghan crash

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Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that a top army official will investigate into the crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt, deputy commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, would begin his duties immediately, the US central Command said.

Marine Corps Gen James N Mattis, the Central Command commander, appointed Colt, a media statement said.


Image: Obama walks with USAF Col Mark Camerer, 436th Airlift Wing Commander, after he arrives at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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