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NATO helicopter crashes in battle in east Afghanistan; Taliban claim responsibility
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' A NATO helicopter crashed overnight in east Afghanistan following an operation against Taliban insurgents, the coalition and Afghan officials said Saturday.
Afghan provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the helicopter crashed in the Sayd Abad district of Wardak province. The volatile region borders the province of Kabul where the Afghan capital is located and is known for its strong Taliban presence.
NATO said the alliance was conducting a recovery operation Saturday at the site and investigating the cause of the crash, but did not release details or a casualty figure.
"We are aware of an incident involving a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman. "We are in the process of accessing the facts."
NATO said insurgents were in the area at the time of the crash.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed the downed aircraft was a U.S. military helicopter and that the Taliban fighters had brought it down with a rocket attack.
In a written statement released Saturday, Mujahid said that NATO attacked a house in Sayd Abad where insurgent fighters were gathering Friday night.
Mujahid says the Taliban fired on NATO and downed the helicopter, killing all the crew. He says eight insurgents also died.
The Taliban often exaggerates casualty numbers in their statements to the media.
Aircraft crashes are relatively frequent in Afghanistan, where insecurity and difficult terrain make air travel essential for coalition forces transporting troops and equipment.
There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year.
Most of the crashes are attributed to pilot errors, weather conditions or mechanical failures. However, the coalition has confirmed that at least one CH-47F Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade on July 25. Two coalition crew members were injured in that attack.