5 US troops die in helicopter crash in Afghanistan

March 12, 2013 - 2:31 PM

AFGH HELICOPTER CRASH

Map locates Kandahar city in Kandahar province, a where a helicopter crashed killed five U.S. troops

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan has killed five American service members, officials said Tuesday.

Monday night's crash brought the total number of U.S. troops killed that day to seven, making it the deadliest day for U.S. forces so far this year. Two U.S. special operations forces were gunned down hours earlier in an insider attack by an Afghan policeman in eastern Afghanistan.

The NATO military coalition said in a statement that initial reports showed no enemy activity in the area at the time. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the statement said.

A U.S. official said all five of the dead were American. The official said the helicopter went down outside Kandahar city. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been formally released.

All five people aboard the UH-60 Black Hawk were killed, said Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the international military coalition.

At the same time as the crash was being reported, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was berating the Taliban for giving the U.S. a reason to stay longer in the country, by staging the deadly weekend attacks that killed at least 19 Afghans, including eight children.

"Do you think you really show America you are strong? No. This is not showing power, this just serves the Americans," Karzai was quoted in the statement released by his press office Tuesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility only for targeting the Defense Ministry in Kabul, not the second attack in the south where the children were killed, but Karzai blamed them for both.

"What the president means is that the attacks, by creating continued instability, give the international community a reason to keep foreign troops here," said presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi, reached late Tuesday.

This was a softening from Karzai's comments Sunday, when he accused the U.S. and the Taliban of cooperating to stage Saturday's deadly suicide attacks to scare Afghans into allowing foreign troops to stay in the country.

Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford rejected his charges of U.S. collusion with the Taliban as "categorically false," and U.S. ambassador James Cunningham said Monday, "It is inconceivable that we would spend the lives of America's sons, daughters...in helping Afghans to secure and rebuild your country, and at the same time be engaged in endangering Afghanistan or its citizens."

The troops killed in Monday's helicopter crash make 12 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan. There were 297 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan in 2012, according to an Associated Press tally.

It was the deadliest crash since August, when a U.S. military helicopter went down during a firefight with insurgents in a remote area of Kandahar. Seven Americans and four Afghans died in that crash.

In March 2012, a helicopter crashed near the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, officials said. And in August 2011, insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs, in Wardak province in central Afghanistan.

Also Tuesday, a statement from the Interior Ministry said insurgent attacks killed six Afghan civilians.

Four died when the tractor they were on struck a roadside bomb in the southern province of Helmand on Monday. Then on Tuesday, two women were killed when a mortar fired by insurgents hit their house in the same province.

More details emerged Tuesday about the insider attack in Wardak the day before. Afghan officials also raised the number of Afghans security forces killed in the attack to four, from two reported previously.

According to a spokesman for the Wardak governor, Afghan and U.S. forces had just finished a meeting in the district police headquarters and were heading to their vehicles in the compound's courtyard when the attack took place. As they came out of the building, a policeman jumped onto the back of a parked police truck, grabbed the mounted heavy machine gun, turned it toward the group and opened fire, said spokesman Attaullah Khogyani.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said two soldiers were killed, in addition to the two police officers Khogyani had reported killed on the day of the attack. The attacker was also killed.

U.S. officials said Monday that in addition to the two special forces soldiers killed, 10 American soldiers — both special operators and regular military — were wounded in the attack. Three of their Afghan translators were also wounded, according to Khogyani.

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Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt contributed.

Dozier can be followed on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/KimberlyDozier and Vogt at http://twitter.com/HeidiVogt .