June 28, 2005

US military helicopter crashes in Afghanistan

By David Brunnstrom

KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. CH-47 troop-carrying helicoptercrashed during an anti-guerrilla operation in easternAfghanistan on Tuesday and the status of those aboard was notimmediately known, the U.S. military said.

The crash happened west of the city of Asadabad, in theprovince of Kunar which borders Pakistan, the military said ina statement.

The twin-rotor CH-47 helicopter was transporting troopsinto an area in support of U.S. forces, it said.

"The cause of the crash and status of survivors is unknownat this time," the statement said. "U.S. fixed-wing aircraftand helicopters are currently providing close air support tothe forces on the ground."

U.S. military spokeswoman Lieutenant Cindy Moore said shehad no further details, but they would be provided as theybecame available.

The U.S. Army says a Chinook can carry 36 troops, includingthree crew.

It was the second crash of a U.S. military CH-47 inAfghanistan in less than three months.

Another crashed in a dust storm in Ghazni provincesouthwest of the capital, Kabul, while on a routine mission onApril 6, killing 18 people, including 16 military personnel,the deadliest military air accident since Washington firstdeployed troops to the country in 2001.

Three U.S. military personnel and three civilian crew werealso killed in late November when their CASA 212 civilianfixed-wing transport aircraft crashed in the central Afghanmountains.

Several U.S. military helicopters have crashed inAfghanistan since U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban in 2001.

As well as those who died in the previous Chinook crash, atleast 14 U.S. soldiers have been killed in increased militantactivity since March aimed at derailing Sept. 18 parliamentaryelections, the next big step in Afghanistan's difficult path tostability.

Tuesday's crash followed a major U.S.-backed operationagainst the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan last week thatthe U.S. military said killed 77 guerrillas, and a bomb attackthat killed three police officers south of Asadabad on Tuesday.

Two Chinooks were hit by rocket-propelled grenade andsmall-arms fire during last week's operation in the southwestand one was forced to make an emergency landing, but themilitary said both returned to base safely without casualties.

The United States leads a foreign force of about 20,000mostly U.S. troops pursuing Taliban and allied militants inAfghanistan more than three and half years after invading totopple the Taliban for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden andother al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks onU.S. cities in 2001.