A U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed Sunday in southern Afghanistan, killing all five crew members on board, the U.S. military said. It did not appear to have been shot down.
The CH-47 chopper was supporting military operations when it went down near Daychopan district in southern Zabul province, a military statement said. U.S. ground forces had reached the crash scene and were providing security for recovery operations.
"There is no indication at this time that this is a result of hostile fire," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara told The Associated Press. "There are no survivors."
A separate statement said all five crew members had been killed.
Gulab Shah, a spokesman for Zabul's governor, said there had been no fighting in the area at the time of the crash. He said he had been told by U.S. forces in the region that the chopper crashed while returning to a U.S. base after dropping off troops for a raid on a suspected militant target.
Daychopan is about 180 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, and has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting with Taliban rebels.
The deaths bring to 195 the number of U.S. military service members killed in and around Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001.
The crash comes amid a major upsurge in rebel violence that has left more than 1,200 people dead in the six months leading up to landmark legislative elections a week ago.
There have been a string of helicopter crashes in Afghanistan this year, including two U.S. military Chinooks.
In late June, suspected insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook in volatile eastern Kunar province near the border with Pakistan. All 16 U.S. forces on board were killed. In April, 15 U.S. service members and three American civilians were killed when their Chinook went down in a sandstorm.
The twin-rotor Chinook, an all-purpose cargo and troop-carrying helicopter, was one of the workhorses of the Vietnam War, where it was first used. It has been in service in all wars since. It is able to carry a platoon of troops, lift large loads of fuel or ammunition, or retrieve smaller helicopters.
It has a crew of five, including two pilots, and three others who man M60 machine guns to protect it.
The crash comes just days after President Hamid Karzai questioned whether U.S. air strikes are effective and challenged the need for major foreign military operations.