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14 Americans Killed In Afghan Crashes

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14 Americans Killed In Afghan Crashes


14 Americans Killed In Afghan Crashes

14 Americans Killed In Afghan Crashes

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A helicopter crash and a separate collision involving two other choppers killed 14 Americans today. It was one of the deadliest days for U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan.


Now, some more details about those helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, which killed 14 Americans. One occurred in western Afghanistan, the other in the south.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is in southern Afghanistan, and he joins us now. Tom, what do we know about these incidents, first, the one near you in the south of the country?

TOM BOWMAN: Well, the first one happened not far from where we are at a Marine combat outpost in Helmand province. And we believe that the helicopters collided about six miles away from where we are. Helicopters were a Marine Cobra gunship and a Heuy helicopter. And we heard explosions from where we are and aircraft overhead well into the night. And apparently, insurgents tried to get close to the site and then they brought in an Air Force AC-130 gunship to fire at the insurgents. And in that incident, four were killed and two injured.

SIEGEL: And the incident in western Afghanistan?

BOWMAN: Well, that involved DEA agents in U.S. forces taking part in a raid on an insurgent compound with possible links to narcotics trafficking. They got into a firefight and as the helicopter lifted off after the firefight, it came down hard and seven military personnel were killed and three U.S. civilians were killed.

SIEGEL: What are the DEA agents doing in Afghanistan, Tom?

BOWMAN: Well, they're taking part in going after narcotics. It's a prime source of funding for the Taliban. There were a couple of dozen DEA agents here earlier in the year. They're beefing up their presence to well over 84 now, we're told. And they're also drawing up lists of top narcotics traffickers in Afghanistan and going after them, along with U.S. military personnel. And they also bring kits along with them to test for drugs and then seize drugs and, also, bomb-making equipment often.

SIEGEL: Now, back to the incident in the Helmand province in the south, how rare is a collision between two helicopters?

BOWMAN: It's very rare. Usually in instances involving helicopters, there's usually mechanical failure, sometimes hostile fire. But it's very, very rare to see a collision. And people I talk with here can't recall a similar incident. They say maybe in Iraq three, four or five years ago, there were maybe a collision, but they can't recall of one in Afghanistan.

SIEGEL: What is not known yet about these incidents? What are people still trying to figure out?

BOWMAN: Well, we don't know exactly what caused the helicopter that was part of the DEA and military mission to crash. And we don't know which American unit was taking part in that operation as well. And we also don't have a sense of those wounded, more than a dozen wounded, how serious their wounds are.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tom Bowman, whom we reached in southern Afghanistan.

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Helicopter Crashes In Afghanistan Kill 14 Americans

Three helicopters went down in Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 11 U.S. soldiers and three American civilians. The deaths added to a monthly toll that is among the worst for U.S. forces since the war began eight years ago.

Heard On 'Morning Edition'

In one of the incidents, U.S. forces in helicopters killed dozens of Taliban insurgents during a raid on a suspected militia compound in the country's west. The operation targeted possible narcotics trafficking in the area.

But as one of the helicopters was leaving, it suddenly went down, killing seven servicemen and three U.S. civilians working for the government. Eleven soldiers, one U.S. civilian and 14 Afghans were also injured in the crash.

The military has conducted joint operations with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration teams. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, reported three DEA agents were killed in the crash, but a DEA spokesman in Kabul declined to comment on whether his agents were involved in this raid.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but the U.S. military said it was not believed to be from enemy action.

In a second helicopter incident, two U.S. Marine attack helicopters collided while on an operation in southern Helmand province, killing four soldiers and injuring two others.

After the collision, a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship was called in to support the recovery mission, as insurgents tried to close in on the crash site.

Collisions of U.S. helicopters have been rare, and most of the crashes in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been due to mechanical problems.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmedi claimed Taliban fighters shot down a helicopter in northwest Badghis province's Darabam district. It was impossible to verify the claim and unclear if he was referring to the same incident.

U.S. forces also reported the death of two other American troops a day earlier: one in a bomb attack in the east, and another who died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in the same region. The deaths bring to at least 47 the number of U.S. troops who have been killed in Afghanistan in October.

Monday's loss of life was the largest for U.S. forces in a single day in more than four years in Afghanistan. The deaths come as U.S. officials debate whether to send tens of thousands more troops to the country, and the Afghan government scrambles to organize a Nov. 7 runoff election between President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

From NPR staff and wire reports