KABUL (Reuters) - Two service members from the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed when a helicopter crashed in a volatile eastern area on Sunday, the coalition said, with the Taliban claiming to have shot the aircraft down.
“I can confirm a helicopter has crashed in eastern Afghanistan,” said British Major Tim James, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“We have no indication of any enemy activity in the area at the time,” he said.
ISAF soon after released a statement which said two service members had been killed in the crash. It gave no other details.
Most of the foreign troops fighting in the east are American, although there are also troops from other countries.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said by telephone from an undisclosed location that one of the Islamist group’s fighters had brought the helicopter down in the Sabari district of eastern Khost province, not far from the Pakistan border, using a shoulder-fired rocket.
Residents in Sabari district said they saw a helicopter catch fire, with black smoke pouring from the aircraft before it crashed in a mountainous area of the district.
Khost and surrounding provinces have seen some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan in recent months as the Taliban and other insurgents push back against ISAF gains made in the south over the past 18 months.
Fighting across Afghanistan has spiked since the Taliban launched their spring offensive at the beginning of May.
At least 230 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to figures kept by independent monitor www.icasualties.org and Reuters.
Of those, 57 were killed in May, the bloodiest month of the year for the NATO-led force. Another 13 have been killed in the first five days of June.
Reporting by Paul Tait and Hamid Shalizi, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher