KABUL — Nearly two dozen Afghans perished in the crash of a military helicopter Wednesday in western Farah province, including the deputy commander for the region and local politicians.
The crash, the latest in a series of incidents involving Afghan helicopters, was the deadliest this year.
Military spokesman Noor Ulhaq Khaliqi said two helicopters were flying together in the rugged Anar Dara district where Taliban insurgents are active, but he gave no other details. Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf said the group’s fighters downed the helicopter in a “direct attack.”
Naser Mehri, a spokesman for Farah’s governor, denied the Taliban’s claim and attributed the crash to “bad weather.”
There was no independent verification of either side’s account.
Speaking by phone from Farah, Mehri also rejected earlier reports about the death of the provincial election chief, who he said was in a second helicopter. The aircraft were transporting supplies and logistics to government outposts.
Among the dead were the head of the provincial council and the deputy commander of the army in the western region, according to Shah Mahmoud Nayemi, deputy head of Farah’s provincial council. He said the helicopter hit a mountainside.
Najibullah Najib, another army spokesman in the region, said more than 20 people were on the helicopter at the time of the crash. He said there were apparently no survivors.
The Defense Ministry in Kabul had no immediate comment.
A number of army helicopters, including one in Farah, have crashed in recent months in Afghanistan. Helicopters are the major source of transportation of troops and supplies for the country’s remote and volatile areas.
Most of the army’s fleet of transport helicopters are aging craft from the Soviet era. The U.S. military, which leads the war against the insurgents, has also supplied the Afghan army with some more-modern combat helicopters.
Separately on Wednesday, five people, including police, were killed in a suicide attack outside Afghanistan’s main jail in Kabul.
Health Ministry officials said 10 other people were wounded. A security source said the number of casualties could rise.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the Islamic State said it was behind a suicide attack outside the election commission’s office in Kabul.
Afghanistan held parliamentary elections on Oct. 20 that were marred by attacks from both the Islamic State and Taliban.