June 28, 2005

Up to 20 on US chopper down in Afghanistan-official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A big U.S. military Chinookhelicopter that crashed in Afghanistan on Tuesday was carryingbetween 15 and 20 American troops, according to preliminaryreports, a U.S. defense official said.

There was no immediate indication of the fate of thepassengers or the cause of the crash, according to the U.S.military. But an Afghan official said that a rocket was firedat the helicopter.

"A rocket was fired at an American helicopter in thedistrict," said the official in Kunar province, who requestedanonymity.

In Washington, the U.S. defense official, who asked not tobe identified, cautioned at the Pentagon that early reportswere sketchy from the rugged area near the border with Pakistanwhere the twin-rotor CH-47 went down.

"Reports indicate between 15 and 20 were aboard," said theofficial.

Another Pentagon official, who also asked not to be named,said: "I wouldn't rule out anything."

The crash occurred west of the city of Asadabad in Kunarprovince, which borders Pakistan, and the CH-47 wastransporting troops into an area in support of U.S. forces, theU.S. military said in a statement.