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An American chopper carrying six U.S. soldiers and 25 Afghan troops made what military officials called a “hard landing” early Thursday morning while trying to insert U.S. forces in southwestern Afghanistan, sparking a fire that destroyed the aircraft.

No injuries were reported in the incident, which U.S. officials said was not caused by enemy fire.

By Thursday, U.S. and Afghan forces had secured the site and an investigation team was on the ground to begin its work.

The CH-47 Chinook was flying in “brown-out conditions” around 1 a.m., the military said from Bagram Air Base. “The aircraft, one of two operating in the area at the time, was conducting operations in response to reports of enemy activity” near Spin Boldak.

The crash was attributed to “reduced visibility caused by debris and dust thrown up from the ground by the helicopter’s rotors,” Combined Joint Task Force-76 spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara said.

Flying in Afghanistan has been a hazardous undertaking. On April 6, a Germany-based CH-47 Chinook crashed in a dust storm southwest of Kabul, killing 15 servicemembers and three civilians. The helicopter crew was part of Giebelstadt, Germany’s Company F, 159th Aviation Regiment, known as “Big Windy.” Also killed were several members of the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne).

And aviation units in Afghanistan have reported an increase of incidents in which insurgents fire on helicopters, including a late-June incident in which a special operations forces helicopter was shot down, killing 16 servicemembers.

Elsewhere on Thursday, U.S. and Afghan forces reportedly killed three militants and captured 15 others while conducting patrols in Oruzgan province. Two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the firefight, which happened after a small-arms ambush.

Attack aircraft were called in to provide air support during the firefight, officials said. The ambush happened in an area where U.S. and other forces are building a new road.

“This enemy is only concerned about killing and has no concern for the well-being of the Afghan people,” O’Hara said. “Those who chose to stand against the government of Afghanistan, in the wake of the government’s offer of reconciliation, do so at considerable risk.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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