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Helicopter crashes in southwest Afghanistan

A US army helicopter, with four people believed to be on board, has crashed on a nighttime mission in southwestern Afghanistan, a US defence official says.

In a brief official announcement following the crash on Thursday, the American military command in Kabul said there were "no confirmed reports" of casualties "at this time".

The announcement did not specify the nationality of the helicopter crew and said the cause of the crash was unknown.

Two US defence officials told the Associated Press that four US troops were aboard the helicopter, identified as an Army Black Hawk, and one official said initial word from the scene was that officials "don't expect" that any of the four
survived.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because details were still being collected and the families of the helicopter crew had not yet been notified.

Unspecified weather difficulties may have played a role in the crash, the two officials said, but it also was possible that enemy action was factor.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement: "The crash site is secured; the cause is under investigation. Additional information will be released as appropriate."

In NATO terms, southwestern Afghanistan includes Nimruz and Helmand provinces, where nearly 20,000 US Marines are stationed.

A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that the helicopter went down in the Regional Command-Southwest area, which includes the traditional Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.

While helicopter crashes occur with some regularity in Afghanistan, ISAF says they are rarely the result of Taliban fire.

Almost 3,000 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the West's war against the Taliban and other fighters began in 2001.


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