Five U.S. soldiers killed, 7 injured in copter crash

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Five U.S. soldiers were killed and seven injured when their helicopter crashed Sunday near the American military headquarters north of the Afghan capital, U.S. Central Command said.

The soldiers were involved in an ongoing U.S. military operation, dubbed Mountain Resolve, taking place in the east of the country, the military said.

"A U.S. military helicopter crashed today near Bagram, Afghanistan," said a statement sent by e-mail from Central Command, in Tampa, Fla. "Early reports indicate seven service members were injured and at least five service members were killed."

It was not clear what caused the crash, and the military said it was investigating.

No major skirmishes

Bagram Air Base, just north of the capital, is home to most of the 11,600 coalition forces in Afghanistan. An additional 5,000 international peacekeepers patrol Kabul.

Mountain Resolve has been going on since Nov. 7 in eastern Nuristan and Kunar provinces, but so far no major skirmishes with suspected Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts have taken place.

Also Sunday, a coalition vehicle struck a land mine while patrolling an area of Afghani-tan near the Pakistani border, seriously wounding two American soldiers, including one who lost one of his legs.

Several reporters were traveling with the 10th Mountain Division forces in eastern Afghani-stan, but none was seriously hurt, the U.S. military said in a statement issued at Bagram air base. It gave no further information about the journalists.

The explosion occurred at about 1 p.m. in Shkin, Paktika province, about 135 miles south of Kabul, the Afghan capital. A coalition base also is located there.

Eastern and southern Afghani-stan have become a hotbed of attacks targeting coalition forces, U.N. workers and relief agencies.

On Friday, the violence hit Kabul when a rocket landed 30 yards from the Intercontinental Hotel, shattering glass but causing no injuries. The hotel, a favorite among foreign visitors, is also near the site of an upcoming loya jirga, or grand council, set to ratify a new constitution in December.

A week ago, a French woman who worked with the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees organization, Bettina Goislard, 29, was gunned down by suspected Taliban militants in the southern city of Ghazni. She became the first international aid worker to be killed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime two years ago.

Some 35 Americans have died from hostile fire in Afghanistan since the October 2001 start of the Afghan war, according to the U.S. military.

An American soldier taking part in the Mountain Resolve operation was killed Nov. 14 when his vehicle struck a land mine near Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province.

Last month, two CIA agents were killed in an ambush near another U.S. base in the eastern Afghan border town of Shkin.