2 Killed in NATO Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan

Pan.bg 06 юни 2011 | 07:59 views (1248) commentaries(0)
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Two NATO service members died when their helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan Sunday, the latest in a string of crashes in recent weeks that remain under investigation.

A NATO spokesman in eastern Afghanistan said the helicopter in Sunday’s crash went down in the Sabari District of Khost Province, a mountainous area near the Pakistan border, where insurgent activity has been among the heaviest this spring. The spokesman said two crew members were airlifted from the site but provided no other details, including the nationality of the two who were killed.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for shooting down the aircraft, but NATO officials in Kabul said initial reports showed no hostile activity in the area.

“What our initial reports indicate is there was no insurgent activity in the area at the time,” said Maj. Tim James, a British Army spokesman for the NATO-led military coalition. “But what we don’t want to do is state categorically the reason for the crash, which is under investigation.”

At least six coalition helicopters have gone down since April 24, resulting in five fatalities. NATO has not said what caused any of the crashes, and has not said whether they resulted from hostile action. Officials said it typically takes two months to investigate a crash and have declined to release any details before the investigations are completed.

In at least four of the crashes, NATO said there was no indication of enemy activity at the time.

So far the crashes do not appear to show a pattern, either with problems with the aircraft or a shift in enemy tactics, Major James said.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said insurgents were planting roadside bombs on Sunday aimed at NATO soldiers and vehicles in the village of Noori when an American helicopter flew close over head.

“This helicopter was flying at low altitude and wanted to target the mujahedeen,” Mr. Mujahid said by telephone from an undisclosed location. “But before it could shoot at the mujahedeen, it was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.”

On May 30, an Australian Chinook helicopter crashed in the town of Tarin Kowt in the southern province of Uruzgan, killing one Australian service member and injuring five others. The Australian military said the crash was under investigation but ruled out enemy ground fire.

An American soldier died May 26 when a helicopter crashed in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan, and another died in a crash on April 24 in Kapisa Province, also in eastern Afghanistan.

Coalition helicopters were also forced to make what NATO described as hard landings on May 15 in the Panjwayi District in Kandahar Province, and again on May 29 in southern Afghanistan. No casualties were reported in either.

Hard landing is a term NATO uses for crashes in which the pilot does not lose control of the craft during the descent, however the difference in classification, officials say, can be a gray area.

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