9 killed as 2 Afghan military choppers collide amid fighting in Helmand
Kabul, Oct 14 (efe-epa).- Two military helicopters crashed into each other in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in a pre-dawn crash on Wednesday, killing at least nine military personnel aboard, officials said, as a fierce battle between government forces and the Taliban rages on in the region.
The collision between Russian-made MI-17 choppers took place around 1.35 am near battle frontlines when the choppers were returning from evacuation sorties to Lashkargah, capital of Helmand province, the officials said.
“Nine people were killed,” provincial governor’s spokesperson Omar Zwak told EFE.
He said the dead were air force crew and some wounded security force personnel.
The defense ministry said it was investigating the incident.
The Afghan army, with the support of the air force, is defending the region after the Taliban’s first big offensive since peace talks between the insurgents and the government began last month in the Qatari capital of Doha.
The government forces claimed to have shot dead 35 militants only last night in airstrikes against the Taliban fighters while around 100 others were killed in the past three days of the battle.
Zwak said the fighting has more or less ended, but ”there are still sporadic firing and clashes and security forces are busy in clearance operations to restore the check posts lost to the Taliban.”
The attack on Helmand’s Lashkargah city and its adjacent districts began on Sunday after hundreds of Taliban fighters launched the attack on the provincial capital.
The attack is the first big offensive by the Taliban since the group signed a peace agreement with the United States in Doha on Feb.29.
In the agreement, the Taliban promised to reduce the violence and not to attack any urban areas.
The dead laid the groundwork for the intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban representatives, currently underway in Doha.
The parties in the intra-Afgan talks have failed to finalize the rules and regulations for the main phase of the negotiations.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi, in a press conference on Monday, strongly condemned the Taliban attacks and said such offensive undermined the peace process.
He added that it showed that the Taliban “have no commitment to peace” and if this continued, it would shatter people’s hopes for an end to nearly two decades of war in the country. EFE-EPA