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Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 11:51 UK

Afghan helicopter crash kills six

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At least six people have been killed in a helicopter crash in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, Nato says.

The passengers were all civilians on board a private aircraft, a spokesman for Nato-led forces said. It is not clear what caused the incident.

The helicopter crashed near Sangin military base in Helmand. The district governor, quoting locals, told the BBC it had been shot down by insurgents.

Meanwhile, an Italian soldier has been killed in western Afghanistan.

'Susceptible'

British and American forces are currently conducting large-scale military operations in Helmand and rely upon helicopters to transport troops and supplies.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says conditions are often dangerous for the aircraft - particularly when they come to land - which makes them susceptible to gun and rocket fire.

"At around 0900 am (0430 GMT) this morning, a private helicopter has crashed outside Sangin military base... we have at least six people killed," said a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

"The passengers were all civilians," he added.

Sangin district official Fazlul Haq told Reuters news agency: "It was in the sky on fire and then it went down."

Reports say those killed included contractors working for foreign forces.

Last week, a Nato helicopter crashed in the southern province of Zabul killing three soldiers.

The dead included one British and two Canadian troops.

Nato deaths

The Italian defence ministry said another three of its soldiers had been injured in a bomb attack in the western province of Farah on Tuesday.

"A patrol was attacked this morning with an explosive device around 50km (30 miles) from Farah," a spokesman told AFP news agency.

Earlier, Nato said two of its troops had been killed in a "hostile incident" in the south on Monday.

International forces have sustained heavy casualties in recent weeks.

US, UK and Afghan forces have spent recent weeks on an offensive in Helmand designed to boost security ahead of presidential elections due next month.



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