Fri, 13 Dec 2019

KABUL -- The U.S. military says two of its service members have been killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

The November 20 crash was being investigated, U.S. Forces Afghanistan said, adding that 'preliminary reports do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire.'

The statement did not provide further details.

The Taliban claimed it had shot the aircraft down in the Charkh district of the eastern province of Logar at 1 a.m. local time, and that 'all on board were killed.'

A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry rejected the Taliban claim, saying that 'there was no involvement of the enemy fire in the helicopter crash.'

'No Afghan security force member is hurt,' said the spokesman, Fawad Aman.

The militant group regularly claims responsibility for helicopter and drone crashes without supporting evidence.

Nineteen U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan in combat-related incidents since the beginning of the year.

There are roughly 13,000 U.S. troops in the country, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Earlier this month, U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted that U.S. troops, already in Afghanistan for 18 years, would remain there 'for several more years.'

The helicopter crash comes a day after two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three high-ranking Taliban prisoners, raising hopes for peace talks between the militant group and the government in Kabul.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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