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BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down Wednesday in southern Logar Province, south of Kabul. Pilots managed to land the aircraft before it caught fire, according to the military, and no major injuries were reported to any crewmembers or passengers.

It was the sixth time an American helicopter has either crashed or been involved in what the military terms a "hard landing" in Afghanistan since May, according to 1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a public affairs officer with Combined Joint Task Force-101, which oversees most U.S. operations in the country.

Wednesday’s incident occurred in the Kherwar District, according to a press release issued by the task force. Perry said the helicopter was hit by small-arms fire and landed in an empty field.

The Black Hawk was conducting a routine mission, he said, and not participating in any operation that involved U.S. or coalition ground forces. But U.S. forces were able to quickly respond to the scene, pick up the crew and passengers and destroy the downed helicopter, Perry said.

"The whole event happened very quickly," he said.

He said he could not provide information on whether U.S. or coalition forces had made contact with those thought to have shot down the helicopter.

"That’s all part of the investigation," he said, noting that such investigations take undetermined amounts of time to conduct.

Wire reports citing the Logar police chief, Mohammed Mustafa Khan, said police officers on the ground believe Taliban militants shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Of the six recent incidents, only a crash on June 5 resulted in any U.S. casualties. Two servicemembers were killed then and the cause of the accident is still under investigation, though no enemy fire was reported at the time of the incident.

Another accident on June 28 also is still under investigation, Perry said, though it resulted in no American casualties and hostile fire was not reported.

Of the other three, one helicopter was shot down on May 12. Mechanical failures were responsible for other accidents on June 16 and June 25.

Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, pilots have repeatedly stated that they face some of the most hostile flying conditions on earth in country.

Perry said the combination of the altitude, weather conditions, terrain and potential fire from enemy forces all contribute to an often dangerous environment. Helicopters are occasionally grounded due to weather conditions.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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