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Helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills 2, injures 5

Cause appears to be mechanical

Posted: Monday, January 21, 2002

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghan-istan -- A U.S. helicopter crashed in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan on Sunday, killing two Marines and injuring the other five on board. It was the third fatal crash of a U.S. military aircraft in the campaign.

The CH-53E Super Stallion crashed about 40 miles south of Bagram air base after taking off from the former Soviet base outside the capital, Kabul. It was flying with another helicopter to resupply American forces, military officials said.

Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. James Jarvis said there was no initial indication of hostile fire, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the cause of the crash appeared to be a mechanical failure.

The survivors were flown from the crash site to Bagram and on to another, undisclosed site in Afghanistan for treatment, said Capt. Tom Bryant, a U.S. Army spokesperson at Bagram. The Pentagon said their injuries were not life-threatening.

In Washington, the Pentagon identified the dead as Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III, 26, from Wicomico, Md., a communications navigations systems technician, and Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan, 24, from Mendocino, Calif., a helicopter mechanic.

The injured were: Cpl. David. J. Lynne, 23, from Mecklenburg, N.C.; Cpl. Ivan A. Montanez, 22, from Hayes, Texas; Cpl. Stephen A. Sullivan, 24, from Pickens, S.C.; Capt. William J. Cody, 30, from Middlesex, N.J., and Capt. Douglas V. Glasgow, 33, from Wayne, Ohio.

The men were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squad-ron 361, part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based in Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, Calif.

Also Sunday, the leader of Afghanistan's interim government arrived in Tokyo for an international aid conference to gather funds for the massive task of rebuilding after more than two decades of war.

''I'm hoping very much that I'll go back to my country, my people with full hands,'' Prime Minister Hamid Karzai said. The two-day conference begins Monday.

The United Nations says it could cost $1.7 billion for the first year and possibly $15 billion over 10 years to repair the Afghan infrastructure and get the new government moving.

The U.N.'s top priorities are filling the government's coffers, getting farmers back in the fields for spring planting and establishing an Afghan police force.

Armed men backing regional warlords are the nearest thing to a police force in most towns and there are complaints of abuses. The poor security raises concern that Taliban and al-Qaida figures are not being caught.

In Kabul, where an international stabilization force is working with newly minted Afghan police, five Taliban were arrested at a checkpoint on the north edge of the city, a local police commander said.

After the crash, U.S. officials would not say where the helicopter went down, but the flight was thought to be supplying small Special Forces units scouring remote areas for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters still on the run.

The worst single casualty toll for U.S. forces in the Afghanistan campaign was Jan. 9, when all seven Marines aboard a refueling tanker died in a fiery crash in the mountains of southwestern Pakistan. The cause of that crash remains under investigation.

The only other fatal crash of a U.S. military aircraft since the United States began the war targeting the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network three months ago involved an Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in Pakistan Oct. 19, killing two Army Rangers.

Some Marines have begun transferring out of Afghanistan to return to troop ships from which they can be quickly deployed on future missions.

The Army's 101st Airborne Division took over command of a base in the southern city of Kandahar from Marines on Saturday.

Some Marines remain at the base for possible future missions as the United States presses the search for the Taliban, bin Laden and other renegades from his al-Qaida organization.

Jarvis said 58 more Taliban and al-Qaida detainees were flown from the Kandahar base Saturday, leaving 232 there, down from a high of about 400.

Thirty were taken to an undisclosed location in Pakistan and are presumably Pakistani nationals. The rest were bound for the detention facility at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm about the treatment of detainees, saying the small, open-air cells at Guantanamo fall below internationally accepted standards for prisoners of war.

Britain asked the United States on Sunday to explain photographs from Guantanamo that appeared in British media and show al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners kneeling on the ground in handcuffs.

''The British government's position is that prisoners -- regardless of their technical status -- should be treated humanely and in accordance with customary international law,'' Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

In other developments:

-- German troops in the British-led stabilization force in Afghanistan have been warned about possible attacks on their base in the capital, Kabul, the German Defense Ministry said Sunday. More German troops arrived in Kabul on Saturday, bringing their strength to 292.

-- U.N. aid officials said that regardless of U.S. concerns that Iran may be trying to undermine Afghanistan's interim government, the countries are cooperating in the humanitarian aid effort, with shipments of U.S. food aid moving overland through Iran.

--The chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen. Jean-Pierre Kelche, visited the 130 French troops in Afghanistan on Sunday during a one-day trip.

-- The Afghan border area near the Pakistani town of Torkham was without power Sunday after Pakistani authorities shut off electricity because of nonpayment of bills, an official of the state-run power company in Pakistan said.

Taking over the Kandahar base, the Army is beginning its mission at a time when the focus of international operations is shifting from routing the Taliban and al-Qaida to rebuilding Afghanistan, shattered after nearly 23 years of war.



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