A Nato helicopter crashed today in southern Afghanistan, killing nine international troops in a region where forces are ramping up pressure on Taliban insurgents. It was the deadliest chopper crash for the coalition in four years.
A “large number” of Americans were among those who died in the crash, according to a senior military official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity because not all relatives have been notified.
He said it remained unclear whether troops of other nationalities were among the fatalities.
The cause was not immediately clear.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but Nato said there were no reports of hostile fire.
It happened in Zabul province – rugged terrain where helicopters are heavily used to transport military troops spread over mountainous areas with few roads.
One other coalition service member, an Afghan National Army soldier and a US civilian were injured.
The helicopter crash occurred in north-western Zabul province in the early morning hours, according to a Nato official.
Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Zabul, said the helicopter went down in Daychopan district.
The Nato contingent in Zabul is dominated by US and Romanian forces.
Nato said there were no reports of enemy fire in the area.
However, Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told The Associated Press insurgents shot down the helicopter. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims and sometimes take credit for accidents.
Mr Rasoolyar said Nato told local officials that the helicopter crashed due to mechanical problems.
“The Taliban were not involved in this crash at all,” he said.
Most helicopter crashes in the country have been accidents caused by maintenance problems or factors such as dust.
The worst helicopter crash for coalition forces was in August 2005 when two transport choppers clipped rotors and crashed in a western Afghan desert, killing 17 Spanish troops.