Helicopter crash kills 18

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The Independent Online

A Northern Alliance helicopter crashed in northern Afghanistan, killing 18 people including two Pashtun commanders and the head guard of the alliance's assassinated military leader, an Afghan news agency reported.

The Afghan Islamic Press gave no details on the flight, but quoted Northern Alliance spokesmen as saying the helicopter crashed last night in northern Takhar province.

Two well-known ethnic Pashtun commanders were killed: Arbab Mohammed Hashim and Mirza Ghulam Nasiri, AIP reported.

Also killed was Mohammed Mustafa, who was the commander of special guards for Ahmed Shah Massood, the Northern Alliance military commander who was killed by two Arab suicide bombers on 9 September, two days before the terrorist attacks in the United States, AIP said.

The news agency said Pashtuns loyal to Mr Hashim, who had recently joined forces with the northern alliance,were claiming the alliance staged the crash to kill their leader, but the alliance said it was an accident.

AIP said Mr Hashim was buried today in the city of Khanabad, just west of Takhar province.