Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Afghan general dies in air crash

Afghan map

One of Afghanistan's top army officers and 12 other soldiers have been killed in a helicopter crash in the west of the country, the defence ministry says.

It said the helicopter carrying General Fazaludin Sayar crashed in Herat province because of bad weather.

Gen Sayar was one of the Afghan army's four regional commanders and in charge of the west of the country.

The delegation he was leading had been on its way to visit an army base in neighbouring Farah province.

Defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP news agency that it was the army's worst crash since 2001.

According to some reports, Taleban fighters claimed they had shot the helicopter down - but the ministry denied this, saying it was an accident.

The BBC's Martin Patience, in Afghanistan, says the Afghan security forces are still heavily dependent on old Russian aircraft to transport their troops.

And he says questions have been raised about safety standards in the past.

The other people who died in the crash were reported to be the corps' operations chief, its telecommunications official, five bodyguards, four crew and the general's chief-of-staff.

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