Nine US soldiers killed in helicopter crash

NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire in a rugged area in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, where the crash took place on Tuesday. But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press (AP) by telephone that insurgents shot down the helicopter.

The Taliban often exaggerate their claims and sometimes take credit for accidents. The US Defense Department released the identities of the troops yesterday, saying four were with the Navy special forces - three of them Navy SEALS - and the rest were soldiers.

Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka said that the five soldiers were assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. Tuesday's crash was the deadliest since May 2006, when a Chinook helicopter went down while attempting a nighttime landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 US troops.

Aircraft are used extensively in Afghanistan by both NATO and the Afghan government forces to transport and supply troops because the terrain is mountainous and roads are few and primitive. Lacking shoulder-fired missiles and other anti-aircraft weapons, the Taliban rely mostly on machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to fire at aircraft during takeoffs and landings.

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