16 killed in Afghan chopper crash

KABUL: A Russian-owned civilian helicopter crashed during takeoff at southern Afghanistan’s largest NATO base Sunday , killing 16 civilians in the latest in a string of deadly aircraft crashes in the country.

There were no indications that the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter at southern Kandahar Air Field was caused by hostile fire, military officials said. A NATO statement said 16 people died in the crash and that the conditions of five additional casualties weren’t immediately known.

No military personnel were wounded or killed, NATO said. The Russian news agency Interfax said the Mi-8 was owned by the Russian air company Vertikal-T. Interfax said there were 20 people aboard the craft and the survivors included three crew members and two passengers. The discrepancy in the death counts could not immediately be explained.

The Mi-8 helicopter can seat up to 24 people, said Capt Glen Parent, a spokesman for the NATO-led force in Kandahar. Civilian helicopters help ferry civilian contractors and supplies to small military outposts across Afghanistan.

In a second helicopter incident in the country’s east, a US military chopper made an emergency landing in Kunar province, the military said in a statement.