Four U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

April 21st, 2012 - 5:08 am ICT by BNO News  

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — Four American service members were killed on late Thursday evening when a helicopter belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) crashed in southern Afghanistan, officials said on Friday.

The accident happened at around 9 p.m. local time on Thursday when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in the Khanashen Dewalak area near Garmsir in Helmand province, where mostly British troops are stationed. The aircraft was carrying at least four ISAF service members.

“Regrettably, we can confirm that four U.S. service members lost their lives in this crash,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Friday. It was not immediately clear if the four fatalities were the only people on board the aircraft, which can carry up to 55 troops and three crew members.

The exact cause of the accident was also not immediately known, although U.S. officials said they did not believe enemy fire was involved. “We still believe that weather was the principal cause,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said. “They’re going to look at all factors, but right now it appears that weather was the principal cause.”

Although Kirby had no information about the crew’s mission, Afghan officials said the helicopter was responding to assist in the evacuation of wounded Afghan police officers after a suicide bombing at a checkpoint in Garmsir. That bombing killed four police officers and injured seven others.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed its fighters brought down the helicopter, although the group regularly makes false claims of responsibility. “The enemy helicopter came under rocket fire after 9 p.m. last night while it was flying at a low altitude to airlift the dead and wounded of the puppets killed in a martyrdom operation in Garmsir,” he said.

On March 16, twelve Turkish soldiers and four civilians were killed when a Turkish Sikorsky-type helicopter, flying for ISAF, went down and clipped a house before crashing into another in the Bagrami district of Kabul province. It followed a deadly helicopter accident in southern Afghanistan in mid-January, killing six U.S. Marines.

Before that, in August 2011, 30 U.S. and 8 Afghan service members were killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in the Tangi Valley of Wardak province. The incident represented the highest number of U.S. forces killed in a single event since the U.S.-led war began in late 2001.

A report released by U.S. Central Command in October 2011 confirmed the crash was caused by an insurgent-fired rocket-propelled grenade which struck the CH-47’s aft rotor-blade as the aircraft approached its landing zone. The investigation found no evidence of a pre-planned ambush.

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