6 US troops killed in Afghan copter crash
REUTERS KABUL SIX US Marines were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, a US official said, but NATO said Taliban fighters were not active in the area at the time.
“The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash”, a spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF said on Friday, raising questions about a possible malfunction or pilot error.
The NATO spokesman declined to confirm the nationality of the victims but a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said all of the dead were US Marines.
It is the worst crash since August last year when 30 American forces, including 22 elite Navy SEAL commandos, died when their helicopter came down in eastern Afghanistan. An investigation into the incident confirmed that the Taliban fired a rocketpropelled grenade that hit one of the rotary blades and exploded, sending the helicopter plunging to the ground and bursting into flames within seconds. All eight Afghans on board were also killed.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday sent his condolences to the French people over the deaths of four French troops shot dead by an Afghan army soldier. “The president is saddened at the incident and expresses his deep sympathy and condolences to the president and people of France and the victims’ families,” his office said in a statement.
Defence Minister General Rahim Wardak also expressed his condolences and said he had ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.
In an angry reaction to the shooting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suspended French military training operations in Afghanistan and said he was mulling an early withdrawal of French troops.