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President Ghani: Military helicopter shot down in central Afghanistan, killing all on board

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows an Afghan air force Mi-35 helicopter flying over a group of Afghan National Army soldiers on Sept. 18, 2013, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, during a live-fire air-to-ground integration exercise.

At least nine people have been killed after an Afghan military helicopter was shot down in central part of the country, President Ashraf Ghani says.

"Our helicopter was shot down... and our brave pilots were martyred," Ghani said on Thursday during a ceremony at the presidential palace, without naming who was responsible for the incident.

The Afghan president, however, warned that "the perpetrators of the incident will be seriously punished."

No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility for downing the Afghan military chopper, which took place late on Wednesday.

The Afghan ministry of defense said earlier that the chopper had crashed in a volatile district of Wardak province, where Afghan forces and local militias have fought bitterly in recent years, AFP reported.

The ministry added that four crew and five security force members were killed in the incident.

Two unnamed sources said the helicopter was hit by a rocket during take off in central Maidan Wardak province.

Helicopter crashes are common in Afghanistan either due to technical problems or militant attacks.

Last October, nine members of the Afghan military were killed when two army helicopters collided while transporting wounded soldiers in southern Helmand province.

In November 2019, a US heavy-lift Boeing Chinook helicopter reportedly crashed in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province leaving at least two American soldiers dead.

The spokesperson for the Taliban claimed they shot down the helicopter while it was conducting a raid against the militant group.

Another US military helicopter was destroyed in May 2019 after a "hard landing" in Afghanistan that left all passengers and crew onboard injured.

Colonel David Butler, a spokesman for US Forces Afghanistan, said a CH-47 Chinook helicopter "hit the ground hard on the way to drop passengers off" during a mission in the country’s southern province of Helmand, ruling out the possibility of any “hostile fire or enemy contact” in the incident.

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