Attack on NATO helicopter in Afghanistan kills one

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a NATO helicopter after it landed on Tuesday, killing one person and wounding eight troops, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

Twenty-six people, including Afghan security forces and ISAF troops, were traveling on the helicopter at the time of the attack, at an outpost in Kunar province near the Pakistan border.

“The CH-47 Chinook helicopter had just landed and was off-loading through the rear ramp when an insurgent RPG was fired into the cargo bay,” ISAF said.

One Afghan interpreter was killed in the attack and eight people were wounded, seven of them ISAF troops and one from the Afghan Border Police.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

“As it was landing to drop forces we fired an RPG, killing an unknown number of soldiers, and the fighting began,” Zabiullah Mujahid told Reuters.

Jet fighters and helicopters were sighted in the area of the attack soon after, a witness said.

ISAF had initially said the cause of the blast was not immediately clear, but later confirmed the attack in eastern Kunar, a remote, lawless region where insurgent activity is high.

Taliban insurgents have in the past shot down helicopters of foreign forces, but successful attacks on NATO aircraft are relatively rare in the now 10-year-old conflict.

In October 2009, two helicopter crashes killed 11 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians.

Violence in Afghanistan has soared to its highest levels since the removal of the Taliban by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, despite the presence of nearly 150,000 foreign troops.

More than 2,000 foreign troops have been killed since the start of the war and over half of those have died in the last two years as insurgent violence has intensified.

Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin, Jonathon Burch and Patrick Markey; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Mark Trevelyan