NATO plane crashes in southern Afghanistan, killing 14 British troops

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Saturday, September 2, 2006

RAF Nimrod MR2 taxis for takeoff

A NATO aircraft, a Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod MR2, crashed in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan today, killing 14 British servicemen. There is no indication that hostile fire was involved.

The crash came a day after fighting across the volatile south killed nine Afghan policemen, at least 13 suspected Taliban and a British soldier.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the incident would "distress the whole country", adding that the mission in Afghanistan is "vital". "Our thoughts go out immediately to the families of those who have died," he said. "British forces are engaged in a vital mission in Afghanistan and this terrible event starkly reminds us of the risk that they face daily."

The "aircraft was supporting a NATO mission. It went off the radar and crashed in an open area in Kandahar" province, about 12 miles west of Kandahar city, said Maj. Scott Lundy, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The British Ministry of Defense said the dead included 12 Royal Air Force personnel, a Royal Marine and an army soldier.

Lundy said "there was no indication of an enemy attack." He gave no other details, but an ISAF statement said the plane's crew reported a technical problem before going down. It also said that "enemy action has been discounted at this stage."

However, shortly after the crash, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, Abdul Khaliq, claimed responsibility. "We used a Stinger missile to shoot down the aircraft," he said.

British Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne said: "This is dreadful and shocking news. I know that the people of Britain will join me in sending our deep condolences to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives. "At this stage all the indications are that this was a terrible accident and not the result of hostile action," he added.

Haji Eisamuddin, a local tribal elder, told The Associated Press by phone that the plane's wreckage was burning in an open field.

"I can see three, four helicopters in the sky, and coalition forces are also arriving in the area," he said.

People can call a special helpline on 08457 800 900 if they are worried about relatives.