KABUL — A U.S. military helicopter crashed Monday while returning from the scene of a firefight with suspected Taliban drug traffickers in western Afghanistan, killing 10 Americans, including three DEA agents.
Four more troops were killed when two helicopters collided over southern Afghanistan, making it the deadliest day for U.S. forces in this country in more than four years.
U.S. military officials insisted neither crash was believed a result of hostile fire, although the Taliban claimed they shot down a U.S. helicopter in the western province of Badghis. The U.S. did not say where in western Afghanistan its helicopter went down, and no other aircraft were reported missing.
The second crash took place when two U.S. Marine helicopters — a UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra — collided in flight before sunrise over the southern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more, a Marine spokesman said.
NATO said the helicopter containing the DEA agents was returning from a joint operation that targeted a compound used by insurgents involved in “narcotics trafficking in western Afghanistan.”
Eleven Americans, including another DEA agent, and 14 Afghan troops were wounded in the crash, NATO said.
Military spokeswoman Elizabeth Mathias said hostile fire was unlikely because the troops were not receiving fire when the helicopter took off.
It was the heaviest single-day loss of life since June 28, 2005, when 19 U.S. troops died, 16 of them aboard a special forces MH-47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down by insurgents.
U.S. forces also reported the deaths of two other American service members Sunday: one in a bomb attack in the east, and another who died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in the same region. The deaths bring to at least 47 the number of U.S. service members who have been killed in October.