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5 die in helicopter crash

Five NATO troops died in a British helicopter crash Saturday in southern Afghanistan, authorities said, the single deadliest day this year for foreign forces as they prepare to withdraw from the country.

The helicopter crash came as an Afghan university official identified two Americans killed in a shooting at a Kabul hospital earlier this week, the latest incident of local security forces opening fire on those they are supposed to protect.

The cause of the helicopter crash was not immediately known. Kandahar provincial police spokesman Zia Durrani said the helicopter went down in the province's Takhta Pul district in the southeast, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the Pakistani border. He said five international troops were killed but did not know what caused the crash.

The coalition said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash but said it had no reports of enemy activity in the area. The United Kingdom's Defence Ministry confirmed that the helicopter was British, but could not confirm the nationalities of the dead.

A Taliban spokesman claimed in a text message to journalists that the insurgents shot down the aircraft.

"Today, the mujahedeen hit the foreign forces' helicopter with a rocket, and 12 soldiers on board were killed," spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said. The insurgents frequently exaggerate death tolls in their attacks and falsely have claimed responsibility for incidents before.

The last deadliest day for coalition forces was Dec. 17, 2013, when a helicopter crash killed six U.S. service members.

Saturday's deaths bring to seven the number of international troops killed this month. So far this year, 23 have been killed, according to an Associated Press count, a far lower number than previous years as international troops have pulled back to allowed Afghan security forces to take the lead in security operations.

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