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Two Americans Killed in Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan

BAMIAN, Afghanistan — Two American service members were killed on Wednesday in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, the American military in Kabul said in a statement.

The military said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

“Preliminary reports do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire,” read a statement from United States Forces Afghanistan.

But a Taliban spokesman said the helicopter was shot down in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan around 1 a.m. The militants, however, often issue false or exaggerated claims. The American military statement did not disclose the time or location of the crash.

The identities of the two service members were withheld pending notification of the next of kin. It was not known which branch of the military they were from.

The deaths brought the number of American service members killed during combat operations this year to 19. That is the highest yearly total since 2014, when the Pentagon announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.

More than 2,400 Americans troops have died in combat since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, according to the website icasualties.org.

The most recent American combat death before Wednesday’s crash was Sgt. First Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, a Special Forces soldier from Greenbrier, Tenn. The Pentagon said the soldier was killed by small-arms fire while fighting alongside Afghan commandos in Wardak Province.

Casualties among Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians are also at high levels this year, reflecting an upsurge in fighting by all sides during and after 10 months of peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. President Trump declared the talks dead Sept. 7.

Although the Afghan and American militaries no longer publish Afghan government casualties, an estimated 50,000 Afghan security force members have been killed in the last five years — sometimes more than a dozen a day.

In the first nine months of this year, 2,563 civilians were killed and 5,676 were wounded in the conflict, the United Nations reported. From July 1 to Sept. 30, the U.N. recorded the highest number of civilian casualties in a single quarter since the agency began systematically documenting casualties 10 years ago.

The crash Wednesday came a day after the Taliban released two Westerners abducted in Kabul in 2016 in exchange for three Taliban leaders held by the Afghan government. The Taliban also released 10 Afghan service members as part of a negotiated agreement.

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