Marines' helicopter crashes in Afghan mountains

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The Independent Online

A US military helicopter with seven Marines on board crashed today in high mountain terrain in northern Afghanistan. Two Marines were reported to have died.

Rescuers were on the scene and had confirmed that at least some of the Marines survived the crash, Marine spokesman 1st Lieutenant James Jarvis told a briefing at the US military base in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

"There are survivors," he said. "We are trying to evacuate them to a higher-level treatment facility as soon as possible."

The identities of those involved would not be released until next-of-kin were notified. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

"Right now, we don't have any indication of hostile fire," Jarvis said. "It is too early to tell the cause of the accident."

Jarvis declined to give the specific location of the crash, other than to say that the CH-53E Super Stallion took off from the Bagram air base, near the capital, Kabul, and went down in a mountainous region of northern Afghanistan about 7:30 a.m. local time (0300 GMT). It was on a resupply mission.

The crash occurred between 7,000 and 9,000 feet (2,100 meters and 2,700 meters). Rescue crews were able to land next to the site, speeding up evacuation of the injured, said Lt Jarvis.

The worst single casualty toll for US forces in the Afghanistan campaign was on 9 January, when all seven Marines aboard a refuelling tanker were killed in a fiery crash near Shamsi air base in remote southwestern Pakistan. The cause remains under investigation, though Marines said there was no sign of hostile ground fire.

The only other fatal crash of a U.S. military aircraft during the war was an Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in Pakistan on 19 October, killing two Army Rangers.