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Blast on US chopper in Afghanistan

Afghanistan BlastKABUL: An explosion on board a US helicopter killed one person and wounded eight others shortly after it landed on a small military base in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a military spokesman said.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said the cause of the explosion was unclear, but the Taliban claimed its fighters in Kunar province shot down the helicopter.

An AFP correspondent in Marawar district said he saw three helicopters flying over the Ghash area and then heard the sound of rocket fire, after which two helicopters flew off and an exchange of small arms fire broke out.

Eastern Afghanistan is one of the most volatile parts of the country, where Taliban and other insurgents have carved out a strong presence. It is just across the border from Pakistan, where militant groups are alleged to have rear bases.

Isaf said seven troops were wounded and one person killed, but a spokesman later raised the number of injured to eight.

There were 26 people on board the helicopter, which an Isaf spokesman identified as a US Chinook.

“We’re working very hard to have a read through and sort out. We think right now it’s one dead and eight injured. It’s fair to say that some of the wounded were Isaf service members,” the spokesman said.

The military said that the landing site had been secured by Afghan and Nato soldiers, and that the cause of the explosion was under investigation.

There are currently around 152,000 foreign troops under US and Nato command in Afghanistan, fighting in a bid to reverse a nine-year Taliban insurgency. Two thirds of the troops are Americans.

Nato and US troops rely heavily on helicopters for transporting troops and supplies across the country, where convoys travelling on largely poor roads are liable to be attacked by insurgents.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed Tuesday that his militia shot down the helicopter.

“We shot down a Nato helicopter with rocket fire. All the soldiers on board were killed,” he told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

On June 9, Taliban militants shot down a Nato helicopter, killing four US troops, in Helmand province — one of the militia’s primary strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

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