Two senior commanders in southern Afghanistan, where the crash took place, said 12 soldiers and five crew were killed in the crash. Both officers requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. The Ministry of Defence confirmed the accident in Zabul province, but said it would release details later.

Earlier, Gul Islam Seyal, the spokesman for the Zabul provincial government, had blamed the crash on technical difficulties as the helicopter ferried supplies. Afghanistan's military has about 150 aircraft and 390 pilots, tiny compared to NATO's air power, which carried out air support, evacuation and supply flights before last year's drawdown left the fight against Taliban insurgents to Afghan forces. The bulk of the Afghan fleet is made up of aging Mi-17 transport aircraft, though it was not clear what kind of helicopter crashed today.

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