Coalition Chopper Downed in Afghanistan

Associated Press

July 2, 2008, Kabul, Afghanistan – A helicopter from the U.S.-led forces was shot down south of the Afghan capital Wednesday, but the crew escaped without serious injury, the coalition said.

In the south, a suicide car bomber targeted a NATO patrol near the Pakistani border, wounding several Afghans, the alliance said.

Small-arms fire downed the UH-60 Black Hawk in Kherwar district of Logar province. The pilots were able to land the aircraft and evacuate everyone on board before it caught fire, a statement said.

Logar police chief Mohammed Mustafa Khan said reports from his officers in the remote district suggested Taliban militants shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The coalition said another helicopter returned later and destroyed the wreckage with precision fire.

Helicopter crashes have been among the deadliest incidents for international troops in Afghanistan.

Most recently, seven soldiers died when a Chinook helicopter was shot down during an air assault in the southern province of Helmand in May 2007.

However, mechanical failure and accidents are just as great a risk as enemy fire in Afghanistan’s craggy mountains and dust-filled deserts.

Wednesday’s incident comes amid a surge in fighting between insurgents and security forces across the southern half of Afghanistan, including in provinces adjacent to the capital, Kabul.

Last week, three U.S. soldiers as well as their Afghan interpreter were killed in a roadside bomb attack just 40 miles south of the city.

Their deaths helped make June the deadliest month for foreign troops here since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001. However, most of the fighting has been in the south and east.

NATO said the suicide car bomber tried to hit a patrol near the border town of Spin Boldak. Initial reports showed no troops were hurt, but that there were “some local national” casualties, it said.

Gen. Abdul Raziq, a border police commander in Spin Boldak, said two construction workers and two security guards were wounded.

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