KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Eight Afghan soldiers were killed early Sunday morning when a military helicopter crashed in northern Baghlan province, officials said.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said that five crew members and three army soldiers were killed in the crash.
The crash took place in Dand Ghori district while the helicopter was supplying a military base, he said. Waziri blamed a technical problem with the aircraft and said he rejected any claims by insurgents to have downed the helicopter.
One helicopter was on the ground while a second was patrolling in the air above, when "suddenly a technical problem caused the helicopter to catch fire and hit the ground," Waziri said.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement claiming responsibility for downing the helicopter, saying the aircraft was shot down by fighters.
Two provincial officials in Baghlan also said the helicopter had been shot down by insurgents while it was supplying the military base with food, water and ammunition.
Qarghan Tapa base has been surrounded by insurgents for a week, leaving more than a hundred soldiers trapped inside, according to the officials. They said all roads to the base have been shut off by the insurgents and the only way to supply them is by air.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.
Mahmood Haqmal, spokesman for Baghlan's governor, said that Taliban gunmen have stepped up their attacks in Dand Ghori and Baghlan-e Murkazi districts. Some civilians have been displaced by the fighting, he said.
Taliban insurgents have increased their attacks on Afghan security forces in northern Baghlan and neighboring Kunduz province in recent weeks. The Taliban are still managing to hold out in the northern city of Kunduz as fighting there continues for the seventh day since the insurgents launched an all-out assault.