Five killed in UK helicopter crash in Afghanistan

This is the first fatal accident involving a British helicopter – thought to have been a Lynx – since the conflict began. Photograph: Ha...

This is the first fatal accident involving a British helicopter – thought to have been a Lynx – since the conflict began. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images
A British helicopter has crashed in Afghanistan, killing all five people on board, the Ministry of Defence announced.
A spokesman for the coalition force Isaf released a statement confirming the five soldiers had died aboard the aircraft which came downon Saturday in mountainous terrain about 80 miles outside Kandahar in the south.
It was the heaviest death toll in a single day this year for foreign forces, who are preparing to leave the country.
If it is confirmed that the dead are all British, it will bring the death toll of UK service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan to six, following the death of Sapper Adam Moralee in an industrial accident in March.
It is also the first fatal accident involving a British helicopter – thought to have been a Lynx, which has an extremely good safety record – since the conflict began.
The Taliban said they had brought down the helicopter, but the claim was dismissed by defence officials, who said that the crash was probably caused by a technical failure. An investigation is being carried out.
The spokesman for Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa said that Isaf had insisted the crash was not a result of enemy fire. "We talked to Isaf and they said the helicopter had a technical problem," said Dawa Khan Minapal. "Charghai village is very close to Kandahar airport. Isaf headquarters is also located close to Kandahar airport. That is why it crashed close by. But it is one of the safest districts in Kandahar."
The Taliban spokesman based in southern Afghanistan, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said in a telephone interview that their militia had used a "secret" new weapon that enables them to target the aircraft. "This village is in a mountainous area," he added. "The helicopter was trying to manoeuvre and was targeted by the Taliban. A lot of Isaf soldiers were killed. These past 14 years they are always saying it is a technical problem, but it was not."
The latest deaths will be an especially poignant blow as British forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan as part of the ongoing transition to hand over full security responsibility to Afghan forces.
The withdrawal has been gradual, with only two British bases operating in southern Helmand province, as at March this year. At the peak of Britain's involvement it had 137 bases in the province. The full withdrawal is expected to take place by the end of the year. Since 2001 some 453 British soldiers have died in the Afghan conflict.
Saturday saw the preliminary results of the Afghan elections held on 5 April. They showed that the presidential election will go to a second round, after no candidate reached the 50% needed for an outright win.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah won most votes with 44.9%, while former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani came second with 31.5%. They could reach a power-sharing agreement but both have said previously that they will push for an outright win. They are now expected to face a runoff vote on 28 May.


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