KABUL, Afghanistan: A helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan killed five American service members, officials said Tuesday.
Monday night’s crash brought the total number of U.S. troops killed that day to seven, making it the deadliest day for U.S. forces so far this year. Two U.S. special operations forces were gunned down hours earlier in an insider attack by an Afghan policeman in eastern Afghanistan.
The NATO military coalition said in a statement that initial reports showed no enemy activity in the area at the time. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the statement said.
A U.S. official said all five of the dead were American. The official said the helicopter went down outside Kandahar city. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been formally released.
All five people aboard the UH-60 Black Hawk were killed, said Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the international military coalition.
At the same time as the crash was being reported, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was berating the Taliban for giving the U.S. a reason to stay longer in the country, by staging the deadly weekend attacks that killed at least 19 Afghans, including eight children.
“Do you think you really show America you are strong? No. This is not showing power, this just serves the Americans,” Karzai was quoted in the statement released by his press office Tuesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility only for targeting the Defense Ministry in Kabul, not the second attack in the south where the children were killed, but Karzai blamed them for both.
“What the president means is that the attacks, by creating continued instability, give the international community a reason to keep foreign troops here,” said presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi, reached late Tuesday.
This was a softening from Karzai’s comments Sunday, when he accused the U.S. and the Taliban of cooperating to stage Saturday’s deadly suicide attacks to scare Afghans into allowing foreign troops to stay in the country.
Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford rejected his charges of U.S. collusion with the Taliban as “categorically false,” and U.S. ambassador James Cunningham said Monday, “It is inconceivable that we would spend the lives of America’s sons, daughters … in helping Afghans to secure and rebuild your country, and at the same time be engaged in endangering Afghanistan or its citizens.”