Nato Helicopter Crash Kills Nine In Afghanistan’s Bloodiest Year

The crash early on Tuesday in Zabul province brought this year’s death toll to at least 529. Violence is at record levels in Afghanistan and more civilians are being killed or maimed than at any time since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. Taliban fighters tried to claim responsibility for the crash, saying they had shot the aircraft, but a Nato spokesman said there had been no reports of enemy fire before it crashed. Nato would not release the nationality of the victims, though they were reported to be Americans. Zabul, an often rugged province in the south of the country, contains several thousand US troops. Helicopters are widely used where mountainous terrain, poor roads and Taliban booby traps make ground travel treacherous. Crashes are not uncommon. The deadliest crash of the campaign killed 16 American special forces troopers when a Chinook was shot down by the Taliban in Kunar province in 2005. A further soldier, an Afghan and an American civilian were wounded in Tuesday’s crash in Daychopan district and taken to hospital. Nato commanders, who are under pressure to demonstrate success after nine years of fighting, have blamed the rising violence on insurgents putting up last ditch resistance as coalition troops push into their strongholds. June, July and August saw the three highest tolls so far according to the 'icasualties’ website which tallies foreign deaths. Until now, 2009 had been the deadliest year, when 521 foreign troops were killed. Britain has lost 91 this year, compared to 108 last year. The violence closed more than 1,300 polling stations and marred much of Saturday’s parliamentary vote, keeping turnout low as voters sought to avoid Taliban reprisals. In one district of 80,000 voters and 25 polling stations, only three people dared cast votes. Insurgents in Andar district of Ghazni has said they would kill anyone who voted. More than 3,000 complaints of vote-rigging, cheating and intimidation have been received by the national vote wa