U.S. military helicopter crashes in Afghanistan


U.S. military helicopter crashes in Afghanistan

Condition of 15-20 troops on board unknown; Taliban allegedly shot aircraft

MSNBC News Services Updated: 4:09 p.m. ET June 28, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed Tuesday while flying troops into eastern Afghanistan, and the fate of those on board was not immediately known, the U.S. military said.

The helicopter was carrying between 15 and 20 American troops, according to preliminary reports, a U.S. defense official said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, cautioned at the Pentagon that early reports were sketchy from the rugged area near the border with Pakistan.

“Reports indicate between 15 and 20 were aboard,” said the official.

There was no immediate indication of the fate of the passengers or the cause of the crash, according to the U.S. military.

Provincial Gov. Asadullah Wafa told The Associated Press that the Taliban hit the aircraft with a rocket. He gave no other details.

“U.S. fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters are currently providing close air support to the forces on the ground,” a military statement said.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara said he could provide no other details about the incident.

Taliban spokesman: Rebels shot down copter

Purported Taliban spokesman Mullah Latif Hakimi called The AP before news of the crash was made public and claimed that the rebels shot it down.

Hakimi often calls news organizations to claim responsibility for attacks on behalf of the Taliban. His information has sometimes proven untrue or exaggerated, and his exact tie to the group’s leadership is unclear.

The crash was the second of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan this year. On April 6, 15 U.S. service members and three American civilians were killed when their chopper went down in a sandstorm as it was returning to the main U.S. base at Bagram.

Tuesday’s crash comes after three months of unprecedented fighting that has killed about 465 suspected insurgents, 29 U.S. troops, 43 Afghan police and soldiers, and 125 civilians.

The violence has left much of the country off-limits to aid workers and has reinforced concerns that the war here is not winding down, but instead worsening into an Iraq-style conflict.

Afghan and U.S. officials have predicted that the situation will deteriorate in the lead-up to legislative elections in September — the next key step toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.

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