Helicopter crash kills 8 Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan-police

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 16, 2012 4:20 AM
Helicopter crash kills 8 Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan-police

By Hamid Shalizi and Jack Kimball

KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO helicopter crashed into a house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday, killing eight Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, a senior Afghan police official told Reuters.

The crash came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the increasingly unpopular and costly war nearly 11 years into the conflict as most foreign combat troops set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"The helicopter crashed into a house in Bagrami district of Kabul due to technical problems," the officer said, adding that the bodies of 8 Turkish soldiers on the aircraft and four people, two women and two children, in the house had been recovered.

There was no immediate comment on the crash from Turkey, which has more than 1,800 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, most of them around the capital.

Unlike other European members of the NATO-led coalition, Turkey's mission is limited to patrols and its soldiers do not take part in combat operations.

Captain Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), confirmed that an ISAF helicopter went down in Kabul province, but gave no details on possible casualties.

"The cause is unknown, but there were no reports of insurgent actions in the area," he said.

In January, six U.S. Marines were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, which followed the death of 30 American personnel, including 22 Navy SEAL commandos, in eastern Afghanistan in August last year.

An investigation into the August incident confirmed the Taliban had fired a rocket-propelled grenade that hit one of the rotary blades and exploded, sending the helicopter plummeting to the ground and bursting into flames.

On Thursday, in a blow to NATO hopes of a negotiated end to the decade-old war, the Afghan Taliban said they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States, following the massacre of 16 civilians by an American soldier.

The U.S. government said it remained committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban but progress would require agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents.

Thousands of Afghans and at least 2,900 members of the coalition force - the majority U.S. personnel -- have been killed since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001.

(Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Rob Taylor and Robert Birsel)