Afghan army helicopter crashes in north Afghanistan; 8 dead

KABUL: Eight Afghan army soldiers were killed early Sunday morning when a military helicopter crashed in northern Baghlan province, officials said.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said that five crew members and three army soldiers were killed in the crash.

The crash took place in Dand Ghori district while the helicopter was supplying a military base, he said. Waziri blamed a technical problem with the aircraft and said he rejected any claims by insurgents to have downed the helicopter.

One helicopter was on the ground while a second was patrolling in the air above, when "suddenly a technical problem caused the helicopter to catch fire and hit the ground," Waziri said.

However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement claiming responsibility for downing the helicopter in which he said the aircraft was shot down by fighters.

Two provincial officials in Baghlan also said that the helicopter had been shot down by insurgents while supplying the military base with food, water and ammunition.

Qarghan Tapa base has been surrounded by insurgents for a week, leaving more than a hundred soldiers stuck inside, according to the officials. They said all roads to the base have been shut off by the insurgents and the only way to supply them is by air.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.

Taliban insurgents have increased their attacks on Afghan security forces in northern Baghlan and neighboring Kunduz province in recent months.