Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 17:09 UK

UK Chinook 'did come under fire'

Coalition troops
Troops distributed thousands of ballot papers using Chinooks

A British military helicopter was shot at in Afghanistan before it caught fire and made an emergency landing, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The four men on board escaped injury and were rescued by another helicopter crew in the south of the country.

The MoD said it had not ruled out the possibility that the Chinook was brought down by Wednesday's attack.

The ministry said the incident, which took place north of Sangin, was still under investigation.

It said the crew, from RAF Odiham in Hampshire, were forced to make a "heavy landing" because the helicopter's engine caught fire.

The crew are believed to have been on a general security flight unrelated to Thursday's election in Afghanistan.

The aircraft was deliberately destroyed by a coalition airstrike to keep it out of enemy hands.

"The incident is under investigation. There was enemy fire at the time of the landing," a spokesman for the MoD said.

RAF Chinook
Aircrew: 4
Max speed: 185mph [298 km/h]
Length: 51ft [15.5m]
Rotor span: 60ft [18.3m]
Weight: 50,000lbs [22,680kg] max.
Range: About 300 miles
Sources: Boeing, RAF,

The MoD said that in the short term other UK aircraft in the region, and those operated by Nato partners, would be able to cover the "helicopter lift requirement".

"In the medium term, the UK's joint helicopter command is already planning the replacement of this airframe," it said.

An MoD spokesman said British troops had not been involved in any major incidents during elections held on Thursday.

He said British forces had kept a low profile but were on standby close to polling stations in case they were needed to support Afghan security forces.

Coalition forces did help to distribute ballot papers in Afghanistan, using helicopters to reach remote regions of the country.

Offensive operations against the Taliban were halted the night before voting. They are expected to resume soon.

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