Taliban insurgents shoot down US copter
KABUL, Afghanistan - Insurgents downed a US helicopter yesterday in a province near the capital, American military officials said - an unusual feat for the Taliban. The crew survived and was rescued, a US military spokesman said.
Also yesterday, a suicide bomber dressed as an Afghan policeman killed two American soldiers and wounded several other people at a police station in northern Afghanistan, provincial officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which also injured some Afghan officers, according to police in Baghlan Province.
The US military confirmed the deaths of two members of the US-led coalition in the bombing in Baghlan's capital, Pol-e Khomri, but did not immediately confirm their nationalities. Three coalition soldiers were hurt in the blast, a spokesman said.
The helicopter that was downed was flying over Wardak Province, about 40 miles west of Kabul, when it came under small-arms fire from insurgents, said Lieutenant Commander Walter Matthews, an American military spokesman.
In more than seven years of fighting, only rarely have insurgents managed to down Western helicopters. Choppers are a crucial mode of transport for troops and supplies, because many of Afghanistan's roads are poorly maintained and dangerous, and Western bases are scattered widely amid extremely rough terrain.
Matthews declined to say how many crew members had been aboard but said without providing details that they were all extracted from the area. Wardak has become a Taliban stronghold in recent months, which has contributed to the choking off of road traffic in and out of Kabul. Coalition troops were working to recover the helicopter, the military said, blaming the downing on the Taliban.
The suicide bombing in the north came as US soldiers were meeting with local police officials and the bomber tried to push his way inside the police compound. American troops have taken the lead in training Afghan police and hold frequent consultations with local police commanders.
A Taliban spokesman, speaking from an undisclosed location, claimed responsibility for the bombing in Baghlan Province, about 100 miles northeast of Kabul. The spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, identified the bomber as Abdul Ahad and said he was from the province.