A NATO plane has crashed in the south of Afghanistan, killing four service members. The cause of the crash remains unclear. Meanwhile, the Taliban have announced a spring offensive.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said early reports did not indicate the aircraft was brought down by insurgents.
"The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash," NATO said. It added that coalition personnel had secured the site and were investigating the cause of the crash.
Most international soldiers in the south of the country are from the United States. However, in line with coalition policy, the nationality of the dead was not released.
The 100,000-strong international mission relies heavily on air transport and accidents have happened in the past. Two US troops were killed when a NATO helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan earlier this month and five US troops died in the southern province of Kandahar in March when their helicopter came down during a heavy rainstorm.
Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban announced the start of their annual "spring offensive" which would target international airbases and diplomatic buildings with multiple suicide bombings, "insider attacks" by Afghan soldiers and "special military tactics."
NATO combat operations in Afghanistan are due to end next year. Last week, a study by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office reported that attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents rose 47 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. The United Nations has reported a rise of almost 30 percent in civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period last year. From January until March 2013, 475 civilians were killed and 872 wounded.
jm/ccp (AFP, AP)