A team of experts is examining the cause of the crash that killed seven German troops near the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The German soldiers were flying a Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter
Twelve German specialists arrived in Kabul on Sunday to investigate the cause of a helicopter crash in which seven German soldiers were killed near the Bagram airbase outside the Afghan capital the previous day.
Official sources confirmed that the helicopter had not been shot at, though the cause of the accident remained unclear. According to a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an engine fault is likely to have caused the crash.
The German Defense Ministry described the plane as a mid-sized military transport helicopter of the type Sikorsky CH-53.
Afghan defense ministry spokesman Gulbuddin said the helicopter crashed a few miles east of Kabul airport near a road leading to the Bagram air base, the headquarters for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
Initially reports said that two Afghan children on the ground were killed as the helicopter crashed, however, the German Defense Ministry has stated that the girls, who had been playing near the site of the accident, have since been located and are unharmed. No other civilians have been reported missing.
Eyewitnesses spoke of the helicopter catching fire and sending clouds of smoke into the air. One witness told Reuters, "The plane was heading towards Kabul when it nosed down towards the ground and caused a big explosion."
The helicopter crash marks the second accident in Afghanistan involving Germans soldiers. On March 6 this year, two German and three Danish soldiers were killed while attempting to dismantle a older Soviet anti-aircraft missile.
German mandate in Afghanistan extended
Ein unbekannter Bundeswehrsoldat bewacht hinter Sandsaecken den Zugang zur Basis der deutschen Truppen in der afghanischen Hauptstadt Kabul auf einem Archivbild vom 18. Januar 2002. Der Bundestag hat am Freitag, 20. Dezember 2002 mit parteiuebergreifender Mehrheit einer Verlaengerung des Bundeswehr-Mandats fuer Afghanistan um zwoelf Monate zugestmmt.
On Friday, an overwhelming number of German parliamentarians voted not only to keep German troops on Afghan soil for twelve more months, but also to double the number of soldiers patrolling Afghanistan from the current 1,300 to around 2,500.
Germany is scheduled to take over leadership of ISAF forces along with Holland in February, and the additional soldiers will be needed for that six-month responsibility, according to Defense Minister Struck.
Before Friday’s vote, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer stressed the importance of the military’s continuing presence in the region. "There is no alternative to international engagement in Afghanistan if we want to learn from September 11," Fischer told parliamentarians, adding that the mission there would be a long and dangerous one.
The government however rejected expanding the geographic region of its mandate beyond the area immediately around Kabul.