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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
No survivors in US Afghan crash
A man sifts through the wreckage of the US Chinook helicopter
The force of the crash left the helicopter a tangled wreck
At least 16 people have died in a US helicopter crash in Afghanistan - the worst such disaster suffered by US forces there since the 2001 invasion.

Thirteen of the dead were American service personnel, US military officials have said.

Three others who died were government contractors, the officials said.

A further two are missing but are not believed to have survived after the helicopter went down in bad weather in the south-eastern province of Ghazni.

It was the eighth air crash involving US forces in Afghanistan since they toppled the Taleban three-and-a-half years ago.

The nationality of the contractors has not been released.

Officials said the crash appears to have been an accident.

The CH-47 helicopter was one of two Chinooks flying to the main US base at Bagram, north of Kabul, from a routine mission in southern Afghanistan.

Taleban claim

The second helicopter arrived safely at Bagram airfield.

A US Chinook CH-47 helicopter lands to pick up troops in Afghanistan
Twin-engined aircraft with two, three-bladed rotors
Used to move soldiers, weapons and supplies
Can carry 54 troops or 25,000 lbs (11,340 kg) of freight - more than its own weight
Crew of four

The seven previous accidents claimed a total of 21 lives.

"Indications are it was bad weather and that there were no survivors," Lt Cindy Moore told the Associated Press.

The recovery operation had been halted for the night because of darkness and bad weather, she added.

A spokesman for Afghanistan's Taleban fighters said they had shot down the Chinook, but that claim could not be verified.

Helicopters from the Bagram base have been used as part of a US offensive against suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban members in remote areas of the country.

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