Friday, 7 August 2015

Afghan army helicopter crashes, killing all 17 aboard

An Afghan military helicopter crashed, killing all 17 people on board on Thursday, officials said, in a blow for a fledgling air force whose resources have been stretched since the withdrawal of most international troops last year.

The Taliban, mounting a growing insurgency, said it shot down the helicopter in the southern province of Zabul, but a government official blamed a technical failure and said there had been no gunfire.

Twelve soldiers and five crew died, said Gul Islam Seyal, a government spokesman in Zabul, on the same day as two suicide attacks blamed on the militant group. Thousands have been killed and wounded since the start of the year.

"There were two helicopters ... One of them had a technical problem and contacted the other one and informed the pilot of an emergency landing. As soon as it landed, it caught fire," Seyal said.

Provincial police chief Mirwais Noorzai said the cause of the helicopter crash was not yet known and was under investigation. The Defense Ministry said the crash appeared to have been caused by a technical problem, without elaborating.

Afzal Aman, the Defense Ministry's chief of operations, described it as "the worst calamity to hit the air force." He confirmed the casualty figure, and said the dead included a unit commander and 11 soldiers, as well as the crew.

Afghanistan's military has about 150 aircraft and 390 pilots, just a fraction of the air power that NATO used to fly support, evacuation and supply sorties before last year's drawdown.

The bulk of the Afghan fleet is made up of aging Mi-17 transport aircraft, but it was not immediately clear what type of helicopter was involved in the crash.

Friday 7 August 2015


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