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NATO helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan kills 2 Australians

August 30, 2012 |  5:10 am

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A NATO helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing two Australian troops, officials said, bringing that country's military fatalities to five in less than 24 hours.

The NATO force did not disclose the location or the nationalities of those killed, but Australian officials confirmed they were citizens of that country. Three other Australians died Wednesday in an "insider" shooting by an assailant in an Afghan military uniform -- an unusually large loss of life in a compressed period of time for a relatively small troop contingent. Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the cause of the helicopter crash was under investigation, but that there were no indications of "enemy activity" in the area at the time.

The Western military relies heavily on helicopters to move troops and supplies across Afghanistan, where poor roads, long distances, rough terrain and vulnerability to Taliban attack make it impractical for foreign forces to rely solely on ground transportation.

Thursday's crash was the second in southern Afghanistan this month. On Aug. 17, a Black Hawk helicopter went down in Kandahar province, killing seven Americans, three Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter.

The military has not yet reported the cause of that crash. The Taliban claimed responsibility, but insurgents routinely boast of having downed any Western aircraft that crashes.

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-- Laura King

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