Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 5 News List

US helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills all troops on board


A US helicopter involved in an anti-Taliban combat operation crashed in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, killing all 10 soldiers on board, the US military said yesterday.

The crash of the Chinook in Kunar province late on Friday was another blow to foreign forces in Afghanistan after a bomb killed two Italian soldiers near the capital the same day.

"The remains of 10 soldiers were on board the aircraft that crashed last night. There were no survivors," said a spokeswoman for the US-led military coalition, Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence.

She did not release the nationalities of the troops on board the helicopter, which came down in a mountainous area of the province, close to the border with Pakistan.

The coalition said the incident was not the result of enemy action, rejecting a claim by the Taliban that they had brought down the Chinook.

"There were various weather factors that could have come into play ... there were high winds. We are investigating any possible causes for the accident but there were no enemy actions detected at the scene," Lawrence said.

The helicopter was taking part in a massive anti-Taliban drive, Operation Mountain Lion, that was launched in Kunar last month.

Mountain Lion is one of the biggest operations in months against insurgents loyal to the Taliban regime.

It involves 2,500 Afghan and coalition troops backed by a range of US and British warplanes.

While the 20,000-soldier US-led coalition is battling Taliban and other insurgents in eastern and southern Afghanistan, a separate NATO-led force of peacekeepers is deployed in the west and north, and the capital Kabul.

Two Italian soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed on Friday and four wounded when their armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb 16km south of the capital.

They had been responding to a request for assistance from the Afghan police, after a police vehicle struck a mine, the ISAF said in a statement late on Friday.

The ISAF and coalition forces have been in Afghanistan since the ouster of the hardline Taliban government after they failed to surrender al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Despite the coalition's efforts, there are still near-daily attacks linked to the Taliban-led insurgency and the leaders of the movement and allied Islamist groups remain on the run.

In a new attack, two policemen were wounded late on Friday when "anti-government elements" attacked a police checkpost on the border with Pakistan, said Sayed Rahman, governor for Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangahar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

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