Nine NATO soldiers killed in Afghan chopper crash



Nine NATO soldiers killed in Afghan chopper crash Kabul: Nine NATO soldiers were killed in militant attacks and a helicopter crash in Afghanistan today, the second deadliest day this year as US-led troops build an ambitious campaign against the Taliban.

Three Australian commandos and a US soldier were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern Kandahar province -- the single worst loss of life for the Australian military in the nearly nine-year Afghan war.

Another two NATO soldiers, an American and a Canadian, died in separate bomb explosions elsewhere in the south, the powerbase of the Taliban militia that is fighting an increasingly deadly insurgency against Western troops.

Three more American soldiers were killed in other militant attacks, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told.

One US soldier died following a small-arms attack in the south and the two others died after a roadside bomb attack in the east.

On top of the deadly day, London announced that 300 British troops had now died in Afghanistan after a soldier died from wounds suffered in an explosion earlier this month in the southern province of Helmand.

The incidents brought to 64 the number of NATO soldiers killed in the Afghan conflict this month, and to 284 the number so far this year.

The deadliest month for the Western coalition was August last year, when 77 foreign soldiers were killed. Last year, 520 NATO troops died -- their deadliest annual total yet.

Much of southern Afghanistan is blighted by the Taliban insurgency, now in its deadliest phase since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the hardline Islamist regime and installed a Western-backed administration.

The US military has warned that casualties will inevitably mount as foreign forces build up their campaign to oust the militants from Kandahar, the Taliban heartland and a hotbed of bombings, assassinations and lawlessness.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today called for a "strategic partnership" with the European Union which he said "would help to deliver the unity of effort that is required for success in Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited Afghanistan earlier this month, said British troops would leave "as soon as they (Afghans) are able to take care and take security for their own country".

"Another family with such grief and pain and loss. Of course the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before," he said.

PTI