By Laura King, Los Angeles Times –
KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashed in restive Kandahar province on Thursday, killing seven American troops and four Afghans, U.S. and Afghan military officials said.
Afghan officials said the crash site was in Shah Wali Kot, a volatile district where insurgents have long been active. The Afghan dead included three members of the Afghan security forces and a civilian interpreter, according to an Afghan provincial spokesman in Kandahar.
The NATO force said the cause of the crash was under investigation, and was tight-lipped about whether insurgent fire had been reported in the area. Usually, the military makes a quick announcement if there is no indication the craft was brought down by enemy fire, and if factors such as weather or mechanical failure are suspected.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for bringing down the helicopter, but the group routinely boasts of shooting down any NATO aircraft that crashes. The Taliban and other militant groups have only rarely been able to bring down Western helicopters during the decade-old war, but manage to do so occasionally, often with significant fatalities.
The war’s most lethal single incident for U.S. troops came a year ago when insurgents shot down a Chinook in Wardak province, killing all 38 aboard, including 30 Americans, many of whom were Navy SEALs.
August has been a particularly deadly month for American forces in Afghanistan. Before Thursday’s crash, 19 U.S. troops had died, including seven killed last week in so-called insider attacks by Afghan allies.