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Jun 15, 2007 at 07:36am IST

US military helicopter struck down

Kabul (Afghanistan): The Taliban claimed to have shot down a US military helicopter in Helmand province on Wednesday night.

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi claimed the Chinook helicopter was brought down by a rocket propelled grenade. All seven on board were killed.

It reportedly crashed near the Kajaki dam, which has been the scene of recent fighting. British troops are defending the dam, which will supply electricity to Kandahar when fully operational.

AIR FORCE GONE: US helicopter gets shot down by Taliban militants in Kabul

Spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, Maj. John Thomas said ''There will be a full investigation'. We will try to determine everything that happened by fully investigating the site.''

A US military official said that initial reports suggested the helicopter was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press, in a phone call that militants shot the helicopter down in southern Helmand province. This is the world's largest opium poppy-growing region and combat here has been heavy in recent months.

Ahmadi did not present any proof for his claim, but he specified the helicopter crashed in the Kajaki district hours before NATO reported that information. Kajaki is the site of a hydroelectric dam and the scene of recent fighting.

NATO said that enemy fighters ambushed troops going to the crash site and the unit called in an airstrike ''to eliminate the enemy threat.'' It did not say if the troops were from the US-led coalition, NATO's force or the Afghan army. One civilian was injured by gunfire.

The fact this helicopter was flying at night suggested the aircraft might have been carrying troops on a nighttime air assault.

Kajaki is the site of a large US-funded hydroelectric dam now being repaired so it can provide electricity to the southern city of Kandahar. British troops, who make up the bulk of the forces in Helmand province, have been engaged in fierce fighting around the dam protecting it.

The NATO force, which is responsible for a countrywide counterinsurgency campaign, has 37,000 soldiers, including about 14,000 Americans. There are 12,000 U.S. troops in the separate US-led coalition, which trains the Afghan army and conducts Special Forces anti-terrorism operations.

(With agency inputs)

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