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NATO helicopter crash kills 11 in Afghanistan

A helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan has killed 11, including seven US troops. The Taliban has declared responsibility for shooting it down but NATO officials have not confirmed the claim.

Eleven people were killed on Thursday in a NATO Black Hawk helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, according to NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

ISAF reported that the deceased included seven US soldiers, three members of the Afghan security forces and a civilian interpreter. Afghan authorities said the crash happened in the Shah Wali Kot district of the southern province of Kandahar. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, ISAF said in release.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for shooting it down. "It caught fire up in the air after it was shot by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi. NATO said they could not confirm that claim.

The ISAF statement did not use its normal phrasing for a simple helicopter crash, which includes the line that no enemy activity was reported in the area.

Last August, an American Chinook was shot down by the Taliban near Kabul, killing eight Afghans and 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan earlier that year. It was the deadliest single incident for American troops in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

On March 16, a Turkish helicopter crashed into a house on the outskirts of Kabul, killing 12 Turkish soldiers and two Afghan civilians.

NATO combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan gradually and relinquish responsibility for national security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

hc/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)