Afghanistan helicopter crash kills 5 NATO troops

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five NATO troops died Saturday in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan in the deadliest incident so far this year for the international forces, officials said.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition said it was investigating the incident and did not offer additional details. A secretary for Kandahar's police chief said that the helicopter was British and that five British soldiers were killed.

There were no enemy activities in the area and the crash was believed to have been caused by mechanical problems, said the secretary, Esmatullah, who goes by one name.

Deaths among international troops have declined sharply in Afghanistan as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization transfers security responsibilities to Afghan soldiers and police and prepares to withdraw most of its forces by the end of the year. But there has been a sharp uptick in violence aimed at Western civilians, with 22 killed this year, the most recent being three Americans shot dead at a Kabul hospital Thursday.

Two of the Americans were identified Saturday as Jon Gabel, who ran a health clinic at Kabul University, and his father, Gary Gabel. They were identified by a university official, Mohammad Hadi Hadayati. A pediatrician from the Chicago area, Jerry Umanos, also was killed.

In December, six American troops died in a helicopter crash in the southern province of Zabol. NBC News later reported that military officials had determined that the aircraft was brought down by an enemy attack, probably from the Taliban.

Special correspondent Baktash reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.

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