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Helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills 16

19/07/2009 - 11:29

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A civilian helicopter under contract for NATO forces in Afghanistan crashed at a military base in the south of the country on Sunday, killing 16 people and wounding five others, the alliance said.

Captain Ruben Hoornveld, a Dutch NATO spokesman at Kandahar Air Field, said there was no enemy involvement in the crash, which took place as the helicopter was taking off from the base, NATO's headquarters in the south of the country.

Russia's Interfax news agency described the helicopter as an Mi-8 transporter, operated by a Russian firm, which had 17 passengers and three crew on board at the time of the crash. It gave the death toll as 15.

The crash was the second by a former-Soviet civilian helicopter in southern Afghanistan in less than a week. Six Ukrainian crew members died aboard a Soviet-built Mi-26 transport helicopter which crashed in Helmand province on Tuesday.

Moldovan authorities said Tuesday's helicopter was shot down while ferrying supplies to a remote British base.

NATO troops in Afghanistan rely heavily on air craft from the former Soviet Union for cargo and transport flights in a country where travel by road is often difficult. The NATO force in Afghanistan has been expanding rapidly this year with the deployment of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Reporting by Ismail Sameem in KANDAHAR and Amie Ferris-Rotman in MOSCOW; Editing by Paul Tait)

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