British troops among five killed in Kabul chopper crash

KABUL (AFP) – Two Britons were among five NATO troops killed in a helicopter crash in Kabul, a second blow for British forces Sunday after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted their convoy in the capital.

The incidents came just two weeks after the resurgent militant group overran the key northern city of Kunduz, their biggest military victory in 14 years of war.

The helicopter crashed while landing at the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the military coalition said, ruling out any insurgent activity behind the incident.

“The (crash) resulted in the death of five Resolute Support (NATO) personnel and the injury of five others,” it said in a statement, without revealing their nationalities.

The defence ministry in London confirmed that two British Royal Air Force personnel were among those killed, adding that an investigation had been launched into the crash.

The latest deaths bring to 456 the total number of British forces, personnel and defence ministry civilians killed serving in Afghanistan since it joined the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

The crash came just hours after a Taliban suicide car bomber struck a British forces convoy in central Kabul, wounding at least three civilians including a child, Afghan officials said. No British casualties were reported.

The British defence ministry confirmed their convoy came under attack and said the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device.

The rush-hour bombing caused a powerful explosion in the capital, sending plumes of smoke into the sky and littering the area with charred pieces of twisted metal.

Resurgent Taliban

The Taliban said Sunday s attack was carried out to avenge the recent “barbaric bombardment in Kunduz that martyred our civilians and doctors”.

On October 3 a US air strike pummelled a hospital in Kunduz run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), killing at least 12 staff and 10 patients.

The medical charity shut down the trauma centre in response, branding the incident a “war crime” and demanding an international investigation into the incident, which sparked an avalanche of global condemnation.

The Pentagon announced Saturday it would make compensation payments for those killed or injured in the strike, while suggesting that US forces in Afghanistan could also pay for repairs to the hospital.

But MSF Sunday said it had officially not received any compensation offer, adding that it would not accept funds for repairs in line with its policy of rejecting support from governments.

President Barack Obama has apologised over the strike, with three different investigations — led by NATO, US forces and Afghan officials — currently under way.

The Taliban captured Kunduz city for three days last month, in a stinging blow to Afghan forces, who have largely been fighting on their own since the end of NATO s combat mission in December.

The emboldened insurgents have stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets since they launched their annual summer offensive in late April.

The Afghan government claims to have wrested back control of Kunduz city but sporadic firefights continue with pockets of insurgents as soldiers, backed by NATO special forces, conduct door-to-door clearance operations.

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