Taliban 'could have shot down Spanish helicopter'

16th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

16 August 2005, MADRID — Taliban forces may have shot down a helicopter killing 17 Spanish troops inAfghanistan, the Spanish defence minister says.

16 August 2005

MADRID — Taliban forces may have shot down a helicopter killing 17 Spanish troops in
Afghanistan, the Spanish defence minister says.

Two Puma helicopters crashed near the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan.

One helicopter crashed south of Herat, while another made a forced landing.

Other Nato forces in the area launched a rescue mission and a number of injured soldiers were taken to hospital.

Both helicopters were carrying out a training exercise ahead of Afghan parliamentary elections next month.

Amid a recent rise in Taliban attacks on Nato troops, Spanish defence minister José Bono said: 'It has absolutely not been ruled out that it might have been an attack.'

Bono said the pilot of one of the helicopters said he saw a plume of smoke - possibly caused by rocket fire - which came from a valley nearby the scene of the crash.

The pilot decided to crash land, causing slight injuries to four crew and more serious injuries to another soldier.

However, a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force blamed mechanical failure while Afghan army sources said the two helicopters collided.

The crash is the second air disaster for Spanish troops in Afghanistan.

In May 2003, 62 peacekeepers died in a plane crash in Turkey when returning from Afghanistan.

The tragedy turned into a scandal when it was revealed that the bodies of 30 soldiers were mixed up as pathologists rushed to complete post-mortems.

The Spanish government later admitted it rented an ageing ex-Soviet military aircraft which had a number of faults to save EUR 6,000.

Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero interrupted his holiday in Lanzarote to fly to Madrid to deal with the crisis.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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