Afghan army helicopter crash kills 9; possible militia fighting to blame

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March 18 (UPI) — An Afghan army helicopter crashed Thursday in Maidan Wardak province, killing nine people, defense officials said.

Khaama Press reported the Mi-17 helicopter was one of four carrying service members, equipment and food to the central province’s Behsud district, about 70 miles west of Kabul.

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Pilot Mohammad Karim Rahimi, three crew members and five military personnel were among those killed.

The Washington Post reported the helicopter was likely downed by militia forces in the mountainous region, citing an aide for local warlord Abdul Ghani Alipur.

“There was fighting, helicopters were targeting us, and when the helicopter was firing rockets, we had to shoot at it,” Mohammad Hussain Tawana, told the newspaper.

He said it wasn’t clear if the helicopter was brought down by the fighting or an unrelated technical issue. He added that several militia members also were killed.

The Defense Ministry said it was investigating, and President Ashraf Ghani said his government would retaliate.

“I am assuring you that the perpetrators will be severely punished. Afghan security forces’ blood will never be wasted,” he said.