Afghan helicopter crash kills four
KANDAHAR FOUR NATO troops — believed to be Americans — were killed when a helicopter responding to a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan crashed, military and Afghan officials said on Friday.
NATO’s International Security Assistance force (ISAF) confirmed the deaths, but did not disclose their nationalities or give any cause for the crash.
A US defence official in Washington said that those on board were likely American soldiers.
A senior police officer in Helmand province said the helicopter went down in stormy weather on a flight related to a deadly suicide attack on an Afghan police post in the province’s Garmser district.
“There was a suicide attack on a police checkpoint that killed four police and wounded seven others,” Mohammad Islamil Hotak said, adding that it was unclear whether the helicopter was heading to the area in support or to pick up casualties.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the crash, saying on their website the aircraft was “shot down by a rocket attack by armed mujahideen fighters”.
“Four US occupying forces were on board when the helicopter was shot down,” the statement said.
Hotak said there was “no proof” that the Taliban was responsible.
A US official said earlier that poor weather had likely been a factor in the incident, but cautioned that nothing was being ruled out.
While helicopter crashes occur with some regularity in Afghanistan, ISAF says they are rarely the result of Taliban fire.
On March 16, 12 Turkish soldiers and two civilians were killed in a chopper crash in the Afghan capital Kabul.
In January, six US troops were killed in a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter crash in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province.
And 30 US troops and eight Afghans were killed, in August 2011, when Taliban insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter, in the deadliest incident for US and NATO forces since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001.
The crash came a day after another difficult blow to the US-led war effort in Afghanistan — the publication of photos showing US troops abusing the mangled remains of Taliban insurgents.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday called for an “accelerated” transition of security responsibilities from NATO forces in the wake of the scandal, the latest in a series involving US troops.
Those incidents have damaged Afghan-US relations and fuelled anti-Western sentiment in the warwracked country.
NATO has a 130,000- strong military force fighting the Taliban, which has led an insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government since being toppled from power by a 2001 USled invasion.
Afghan forces are gradually taking over control of security in the country, with the goal of being in the lead nationwide next year and enabling most foreign troops to depart by the end of 2014.