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UK helicopter makes emergency landing in Afghanistan

British soldiers board a Chinook helicopter at Musa Qala in Helmand province July 20, 2009. REUTERS/ Abdul Qodus

LONDON (Reuters) - A British Chinook helicopter made an emergency landing in southern Afghanistan following an engine fire, but the crew escaped unhurt, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.

The cause of the incident on Wednesday night was being investigated and enemy action had not been ruled out, the MoD added. The helicopter was later deliberately destroyed by a coalition airstrike to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Taliban.

Britain has 9,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan, most in the southern province of Helmand where the Taliban remains strong. Afghans go to the polls on Thursday to vote in a presidential election.

More than 200 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government has been criticised for failing to provide enough helicopters, with some saying this leaves troops vulnerable to roadside bombs.

The MoD would not say how many helicopters it has in Afghanistan. It said NATO partners would provide short-term cover before the Chinook was replaced.