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19 Jul, 2009 23:59

Sixteen dead in Afghanistan helicopter crash

A Mi-8 helicopter belonging to Russian company Vertikal-T has crashed at takeoff in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It was on a support mission on behalf of the peacekeeping forces.

According to a representative of the International Security Assistance Force, the crash killed 16 passengers and injured five. Those injured are currently being treated in the NATO military hospital.

The Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter carrying supplies to peacekeeping troops went down while taking off from Kandahar's main air base.

"The helicopter had 18 passengers onboard – representatives of various foreign companies that build coalition bases," Andrei Vadov, Russian charge d'affaires, told Ekho Moscow radio.

He also said the crew was made up of two Russian and a Belarusian citizen, all of whom are currently listed in serious condition.

The cause of the crash remains unknown, though NATO has ruled out involvement by insurgents.

According to Itar-Tass, some 22 Mi-8 crashes have occurred since 2001, killing 138 passengers and crew members.