The Afghan Taliban claim to have shot down a UK military helicopter which crashed on Saturday, killing five Isaf servicemen – all of whom are thought to be British.
Five members of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) died in the crash in southern Afghanistan, which local officials said was due to a technical failure. However, the Taliban has said it deliberately shot the helicopter down.
Sources said that the troops killed in the accident are all thought to be British, pending formal identification. The process of contacting next of kin is ongoing and is expected to last hours, the sources said.
If British casualties are confirmed, they would follow the previous deaths of 448 members of UK service personnel in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan spokesman Qari Yousaf has said the helicopter was deliberately shot down by the Taliban.
The Taliban spokesman said the helicopter was on a routine military exercises when the Taliban fighters hit it at Takhta Pul district of Kandahar. He said foreign forces have sent more helicopters and started an operation to airlift bodies out of the area.
Earlier this month, the Afghan Taliban told Channel 4 News exclusively that they would do to disrupt the recent Afghanistan elections – showing how the group remains committed to its violent campaign.
The Ministry of Defence has said it is unable to confirm at this stage the nationality of the servicemen.
A spokesman said: “We can confirm that a UK helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan today. The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further until families have been notified.”
The helicopter crashed at 6:30am (GMT) in Takhteh Pol district. The incident makes Saturday the bloodiest day for foreign troops in Afghanistan in 2014.
It brings the total of dead international servicemen in Afghanistan this month to seven.
Nato forces are currently preparing to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year, with responsibility for fighting the Taliban insurgency handed over to the Afghan army and police.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s election is set to go to a second round run-off between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani after none of the candidates won an absolute majority, preliminary results showed on Saturday.
Abdullah finished top with 44.9 percent, followed by Ghani with 31.5 percent, the Independent Election Commission said.
Zalmay Rassoul was a distant third with 11.5 percent. Final results are due May 14, and a run-off would take place at the end of May.