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Nine Killed After Two Afghan Military Choppers Crash In Helmand Province

Afghan security officials patrol the highway connecting Kandahar to Helmand during a large Taliban attack on Helmand's capital Lashkar Gah.

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry says two of its helicopters have crashed in the southern province of Helmand due to "technical issues," killing nine people aboard.

The two Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters crashed overnight while taking off in Nawa district, the ministry said in a statement on October 14.

All those killed were said to be Afghan crew and soldiers who had been on board the aircraft.

A local official told RFE/RL that the helicopters collided when they were evacuating wounded soldiers after deploying Afghan special forces to repel a Taliban attack in the area.

Militants have been attacking in different parts of Helmand in recent days, including the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

On October 12, the U.S. military said it had carried out several air strikes in the province in support of Afghan security forces under attack by the Taliban.

Afghan officials said the violence has forced more than 5,000 families to leave their homes and take refuge in Lashkar Gah.

Electricity and telecommunication lines have been disrupted in some areas, forcing local health facilities to either close or operate in a reduced capacity, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on October 14.

The agency said it expected that "some tens of thousands of people living in these areas will be deprived of access to critical health services."

The fighting comes amid no apparent progress in peace talks between government representatives and Taliban negotiators in Qatar.

The negotiations are meant to end Afghanistan's decades-long long war, following a deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in the Qatari capital in February.

With reporting by dpa and AP
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