6 killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash
Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:01 pm
By FISNIK ABRASHI
Associated Press Writer
KABUL (AP) — A helicopter contracted by the NATO-led force in Afghanistan crashed in southern Helmand province today, killing six civilians, an official said. Two U.S. Marines died in the same region.
The white helicopter crashed and caught fire around daybreak in Sangin district, said Fazel Haq, the top district official.
Six civilians on board were killed and an Afghan national on the ground was injured, said a spokesman for the NATO-led force, who could not be identified because he was not the media office’s top spokesman.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, he said. The nationalities of those killed were unknown.
Afghanistan’s harsh mountainous terrain and lack of roads forces foreign troops to rely on helicopters for transportation and resupply missions. A lack of military helicopters has forced some NATO nations to contract with private companies.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down a helicopter with dozens of British troops aboard. However, the militant group frequently makes claims that turn out to be false, and the latest announcement appeared far out of line with what NATO officials say happened.
Elsewhere in the south, two U.S. Marines were killed in a “hostile incident” on Monday, said U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias. She did not provide any other details.
Some 4,000 Marines are pushing through Helmand province in the biggest U.S. military operation in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban from power in 2001. The region is the world’s largest opium poppy producing area and the Taliban’s heartland.
Taliban fighters have planted dozens of roadside bombs in the region, one of the greatest threats to troops operating there. Militants have increased their attacks dramatically in the last three years.
The two deaths bring to 107 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared with 151 U.S. deaths in all of 2008. As of Monday, at least 660 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since 2001, according to the Defense Department. Of those, the military says 492 were killed by hostile action.
Separately, a roadside blast Tuesday hit a civilian vehicle in Uruzgan, another southern province, killing three people and wounding six others, according to an Interior Ministry statement. It said all the victims were civilians.
Published in The Messenger 7.14.09