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Saturday, August 6, 2011

NATO helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, killing 31 U.S. troops!

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By Michelle Nichols | Reuters – 58 mins ago.

KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO helicopter crashed in central Afghanistan overnight killing 31 U.S. soldiers and 7 Afghan troops, the Afghan president said on Saturday, a devastating death toll and easily the worst single incident for foreign troops in 10 years of war.

A brief statement from the presidential palace said the helicopter had crashed in central Maidan Wardak province, just to the west of the capital, Kabul, and identified the Americans as special forces troops.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai "shared his deep sorrow and sadness" with U.S. counterpart Barack Obama and the families of the U.S. and Afghan victims, the statement said.

The Taliban claimed to have shot down the troop-carrying Chinook helicopter during a firefight and killed 38 soldiers. The Islamist group also said in a statement that eight insurgents had been killed in torrid fighting.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed a helicopter had crashed but gave no further details.

The high casualties come only two weeks after the start of a gradual process of handing security responsibility from foreign forces to Afghan troops and police, and at a time of growing unease about the increasingly unpopular and costly war.

That process is due to end with all foreign combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but some U.S. lawmakers have already questioned whether that handover is fast enough.

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