KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — Three crew members were killed on late Monday morning when a U.S.-owned helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, its owner said. There were no survivors.
The accident happened at around 10:45 a.m. local time when a helicopter belonging to AAR Airlift, a unit of Chicago-based AAR Corp., crashed in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province. The aircraft was conducting operations for the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“The Company has confirmed that there were three crew member fatalities,” AAR Airlift said in a brief statement. “The families of all three crew members have been contacted. The Company reports that no passengers were aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident.”
AAR Airlift said the cause of the accident was not immediately known and gave no other details. However, district police chief Major Omar Jan told Pajhwok Afghan News that the aircraft caught fire, possibly as a result of a technical fault, while attempting an emergency landing.
But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed its fighters had shot down the aircraft. “The attack took place at 11:00 am today as the enemy aircraft took off from a base while carrying troops away when it came under an armed attack in Shawal area, catching fire in mid-air before violently crashing onto the ground, instantly killing all invaders and crew onboard,” he said.
Contrary to the Taliban claim, ISAF said no service members were on board the aircraft and the casualties are believed to have been U.S. civilians. The Taliban frequently exaggerates its statements for propaganda purposes, but is also known to falsely claim credit for accidents.