Afghanistan Helicopter Crash Kills 5 NATO Troops

MUMBAI, India (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Five NATO troops died in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Saturday in the deadliest incident so far this year for the international forces, officials said.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition said it was investigating the incident and did not offer additional details. A secretary for Kandahar’s police chief said that the helicopter that crashed was British and that five British soldiers were killed.

There were no enemy activities in the area and the crash was believed to be caused by mechanical problems, said the secretary, Esmatullah, who goes by one name.

Deaths among international troops have declined sharply in Afghanistan as NATO transfers security responsibilities to Afghan soldiers and police and prepares to withdraw most of its forces by the end of the year. But there has been a sharp uptick in violence aimed at Western civilians, with 22 killed since January, the most recent being three Americans shot dead at a Kabul hospital on Thursday.

Two of the Americans were identified Saturday as Jon Gabel, who ran a health clinic at Kabul University, and his father, Gary Gabel. They were identified by a university official, Mohammad Hadi Hadayati. A pediatrician from the Chicago area, Jerry Umanos, also was killed.

In December, six American troops died in a helicopter crash in the southern province of Zabol. NBC News later reported that military officials determined the aircraft was brought down by an enemy attack, probably from the Taliban.