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The Globe and Mail

Canadian helicopter goes down near Kandahar

A Canadian Chinook helicopter prepares to remove a Howitzer from a forward operating base in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan on July 9, 2010.

The Canadian Press

A Canadian Chinook helicopter was forced to make a hard landing near a remote village in Kandahar province Thursday, bursting into flames and causing minor injuries to eight soldiers.

"About 2 p.m. today a Canadian Forces CH147 Chinook helicopter had a hard landing about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. There were minor injuries," said Maj. Daryl Morrell, senior public affairs officer for Task Force Kandahar.

The Associated Press reported that Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed insurgents shot down the aircraft with a rocket. Maj. Morrell said the investigation into the incident was too early in its progress to say whether the claim was true or not.

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"What we're doing right now is we're looking into causes. So this will be investigated and we'll get more details," Maj. Morrell said.

"Right now all that we know is it was a hard landing. We want to confirm and that's what we're doing now."

A shopkeeper in the area said he heard a loud bang, then saw smoke and the helicopter falling into a field. A witness said the helicopter was still on fire a couple of hours after it came down.

The Chinook landed near the village of Armarah.

The site of the landing was immediately secured by Afghan National Police and NATO's ISAF forces. The five crew members, including two pilots and three door gunners, as well as 15 passengers were recovered from the Chinook.

It's not the first time a Canadian helicopter has crashed in Afghanistan.

On July 6, 2009, Master Cpl. Pat Audet, 38, of Montreal, and Cpl. Martin Joannette, 25, of St-Calixte, Que., died in Zabul province when their Griffon CH-146 helicopter crashed on takeoff. Three other Canadian Forces members were injured, one of them seriously. A British officer was also killed in the crash.

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The crash last year was believed to have occurred when the chopper clipped a security wall while trying to manoeuvre in a blinding cloud of dust.

The six aging CH-47D Chinooks, purchased from the United States with a price tag of $292-million a couple of years ago, have done yeoman's service since they began flying in Afghanistan early last year.

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