- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

SHAHJOI, Afghanistan (AP) — After radioing in an unexplained loss of power and engine failure, a military helicopter crashed early yesterday in southeastern Afghanistan, killing eight U.S. troops and injuring 14.

Officials ruled out enemy fire as a cause of the crash, which left charred wreckage of the twin-rotor Chinook scattered on a dusty, open plain in Zabul province, just 50 yards from the main Kabul-Kandahar highway.

There were no claims of responsibility for any attack on the copter, which went down under overcast skies in a region where Taliban militants are active.

It was the deadliest single incident this year for the 47,000 U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The helicopter was carrying 22 U.S. service members when it had a “sudden, unexplained loss of power and control and crashed,” U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. David Accetta said, adding that the cause would be investigated.

“It was not enemy-fire-related,” said Col. Tom Collins, spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “The pilot was able to radio in that he was having engine problems. We’re confident it was not due to enemy action.”

Seven U.S. Humvees and three Afghan military vehicles were parked around the crash site. About 35 American soldiers and 15 Afghan soldiers blocked reporters from entering the area. Afghan troops searched every passing vehicle and their passengers.

Zabul provincial Gov. Dilber Jan Arman said bad weather may be to blame.

The military relies heavily on helicopters for transport and operations because of Afghanistan’s forbidding terrain and lack of passable roads. The dust and high altitude of Afghanistan’s mountains take a heavy toll on helicopter engines.

The U.S. military said details of the crash or the helicopter’s mission would not be released until “completion of recovery operations.”

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