KABUL (AFP) -A US helicopter involved in an anti-Taliban combat operation crashed in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, killing all 10 soldiers on board, the US military has said.
The crash of the Chinook in Kunar province late Friday was another blow to foreign forces in Afghanistan after a bomb killed two Italian soldiers near the capital the same day.
“The remains of 10 soldiers were on board the aircraft that crashed last night. There were no survivors,” said a spokeswoman for the US-led military coalition, Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence.
She did not release the nationalities of the troops on board the helicopter, which came down in a mountainous area of the insurgency-plagued province, near the border with Pakistan.
“Recovery efforts will continue today and the scene is secured by coalition forces,” Lawrence said. “An investigation team, security elements and a mortuary team will be going to the scene today.”
The coalition said the incident was not the result of enemy action, rejecting a claim by the Taliban that they had brought down the Chinook.
“The crash occurred in a very mountainous terrain and the landing zone was very difficult. It was a mountain-top landing zone,” Lawrence said.
“There were various weather factors that could have come into play… there were high winds. We are investigating any possible causes for the accident but there were no enemy actions detected at the scene.”
Taliban militants shot down another US Chinook helicopter in Kunar in June last year, killing all 16 soldiers on board, eight of them US Navy SEALs. The chopper was brought down by a rocket propelled grenade, the US military said.
The aircraft that came down on Friday was taking part in a massive anti-Taliban drive, Operation Mountain Lion, that was launched in Kunar last month.
It crashed near the provincial capital Asadabad which is close to the border with Pakistan.
Mountain Lion is one of the biggest operations in months against insurgents loyal to the Taliban regime. It involves 2,500 Afghan and coalition troops backed by a range of US and British warplanes.
While the 20,000-soldier US-led coalition is battling Taliban and other insurgents in eastern and southern Afghanistan, a separate NATO-led force of peacekeepers is deployed in the west and north, and the capital Kabul.
Two Italian soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed Friday and four wounded when their armoured vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of Kabul.
They had been responding to a request for assistance from the Afghan police, after a police vehicle struck a mine, ISAF said in a statement late Friday.
The ISAF and coalition forces have been in Afghanistan since the ouster of the hardline Taliban government after they failed to surrender Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Despite the coalition’s efforts, there are still near-daily attacks linked to the Taliban-led insurgency and the leaders of the movement and allied Islamist groups remain on the run.
In a new attack, two policemen were wounded late Friday when “anti-government elements” attacked a police checkpost on the border with Pakistan, said Sayed Rahman, governor for Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangahar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility.