Sun, Jul 05, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Taliban claim downing Pakistani military helicopter

AFP , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Taliban militants yesterday claimed responsibility for a military helicopter crash that killed 26 people in the rugged tribal area in the country’s north.

The helicopter crashed on Friday on the border of the semi-autonomous Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions and officials said no one survived.

“We shot down the helicopter,” a spokesman for Taliban insurgents based in the nearby Darra Adam Khel region said in a telephone call to reporters.

The spokesman identifying himself as Muhammad said it was in retaliation for the Pakistani military operation in South Waziristan, a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold.

A military spokesman rejected the claim, reiterating yesterday that the helicopter had crashed because of a “technical fault.”

“Taliban militants frequently make false claims,” he said.

“All 26 people on board died and the wreckage of the helicopter has been removed,” he said, adding that an inquiry had been ordered.

On Friday, a senior security official said an MI-17 military helicopter crashed because of a technical fault, killing 26 security personnel on board.

He said that the site of crash was 20km from Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.

Pakistan has been fighting a two-month battle to dislodge militants in three districts of the northwest.

The military has also launched air raids in the tribal belt to prepare for a second front against the Taliban in South Waziristan, a stronghold of feared warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

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