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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Two dozen U.S. deaths in Afghan copter crash

Nato helicopter crashed overnight in east Afghanistan following an operation against Taliban insurgents.

Afghan provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.

Nato said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation Saturday at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure.

"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said US Air Force Captain Justin Brockhoff, a Nato spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts."

Nato said insurgents were in the area at the time of the crash.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed the downed aircraft was a US military helicopter and that the Taliban fighters had brought it down with a rocket attack.

The Taliban claimed militants downed the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade. Mohammad Hazrat Janan, head of the provincial council said Tangi village elders reported that insurgents shot at the craft when it was flying back from an operation.
The incident took place in the eastern province of Wardak, an area rife with insurgent activity. There has been a swell of recent attacks in the country's southern and eastern provinces.
The crash comes just as NATO is drawing down and handing over security control to national forces. Ten thousand U.S. soldiers are scheduled to depart by year's end, while the full drawn-down is expected to take place by the end of 2014.
However, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has not said how the incident occurred. ISAF spokesman Justin Brockhoff confirmed the crash and acknowledged the helicopter had been flying in area where there was reported insurgent activity, but declined to offer additional details.
Officials are being especially tight-lipped because recovery operations at the site are still under way and body identifications and family notifications are just beginning, the U.S. military official said.
Last month, a NATO helicopter was brought down by insurgent fire in the country's eastern province of Kunar. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that attack, though no injuries were reported.
In a separate incident, a NATO service member died Saturday after an improvised explosive device detonated in southern Afghanistan.
Elsewhere Saturday, a joint Afghan and coalition force conducted raids in the eastern province of Nangarhar, killing "several insurgents," NATO reported.
The operation also targeted a "Taliban facilitator," who NATO says was responsible for supplying ammunition and bomb-making materials to the Taliban.
In July, a series of gun battles in Nangarhar between insurgents and NATO forces left at least 10 militants dead.

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