5 coalition service members die in Afghan copter crash
(CNN) — Five coalition service members died Saturday when a helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said.
UK officials confirmed that it was a British helicopter that crashed, but the nationalities of the five casualties were not immediately released.
The UK Defense Ministry offered no additional details other than to say the incident is under investigation. ISAF’s policy is to “defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.”
There are 5,200 British troops in ISAF, the second-highest deployment next to the United States — which has 33,500 troops, according to ISAF’s website. The number of British deaths in the Afghan conflict totals 448.
The incident occurred in the Takhtapul district of Kandahar province, according to Zia Durani, the spokesman for Kandahar police chief.
ISAF said an investigation is under way to determine more facts, but Durani said there is no evidence of insurgent activities and it appears the crash happened because of technical problems.
This comes amid a series of deadly attacks in the turbulent country. On Thursday, an American doctor and two others were shot by a policeman guarding a hospital in the capital, Kabul.
In December, a helicopter crash resulted in the deaths of six ISAF members — all Americans. ISAF said the crash was caused by “enemy action,” and Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for that incident, which occurred in Zabul province.
Political change ahead
Afghanistan, long in the throes of unrest, is undergoing political change.
Some seven million Afghans went to the polls on April 5 to choose a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai. It will be the country’s first democratic transfer of presidential power.
The election will have a June runoff after no one candidate garnered more than 50% of the vote, the country’s election commission said Saturday when preliminary first-round results were released.
Security will be a key issue for whoever is elected president as NATO troops are scheduled to draw down from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
By Joe Sterling and Qadir Sediqi
Journalist Qadir Sediqi reported from Kabul. CNN’s Joe Sterling wrote and reported from Atlanta.