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October 27, 2009

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Copter crashes kill 14 Americans in Afghanistan

HELICOPTER crashes killed 14 Americans yesterday in the deadliest day for the United States mission in Afghanistan in more than four years. The deaths came as US President Barack Obama prepared to meet his national security team for a sixth full-scale conference on the future of the troubled war.

In the deadliest crash, a helicopter went down in the west of the country after leaving the scene of a firefight, killing 10 Americans - seven service members and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Eleven American service members, one US civilian and 14 Afghans were also injured.

In a separate incident, two US Marine helicopters - one UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra - collided in flight before sunrise over the southern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more, Marine spokesman Major Bill Pelletier said.

It was the heaviest single-day loss of life since June 28, 2005, when 16 US soldiers died when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down.

US authorities have ruled out hostile fire in the collision but have not given a cause for the other fatal crash in the west. Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmedi claimed Taliban fighters shot down a helicopter in northwest Badghis province's Darabam district. It was impossible to verify the claim and unclear if he was referring to the same incident.

US military spokeswoman Elizabeth Mathias said hostile fire was unlikely because the troops were not under fire when they took off.

NATO said the helicopter was returning from a joint operation that targeted insurgents involved in "narcotics trafficking in western Afghanistan."

"During the operation, insurgent forces engaged the joint force and more than a dozen enemy fighters were killed in the ensuing firefight," a NATO statement said.


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