British helicopter crews aid Afghan elections

British helicopter crews in Afghanistan helped transport ballot boxes as the country voted in key parliamentary elections today.

Lynx and Apache crews from the Joint Helicopter Force provided cover for Afghan Air Force helicopters carrying boxes, papers and people to Musa Qala.

Major Dan McBride, of Joint Aviation Group Afghanistan, said: “Due to the topography of Afghanistan and the indiscriminate nature of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), supporting the election on the ground can be open to disruption.

“The best and most effective means of achieving the electoral process in hard to reach areas is, therefore, to utilise aviation – specifically helicopters - to support the procedure.”

Group Captain Nick Laird, Commander Joint Aviation Group, said: “The Afghan transport helicopters can only go to certain areas unaccompanied.

“We assist them with escort duties into those areas that have a higher threat. We provide those escort aircraft by either using Lynx or Apache.”

The Afghan Mi-17 or ’Hip’ helicopters are Russian-built and designed to fly in “hot and high” conditions.

The Taliban disrupted the polling with rocket attacks and bombings.

At least three civilians were killed, two in a rocket attack in northern Baghlan province and one when a rocket hit a house in eastern Kunar province.

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