(London) Five military personnel killed when the UK helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern Afghanistan are feared to be British.
The Ministry of Defence said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash but could not confirm the nationality of the troops who were killed.
But sources said it is believed that they were British and the process of contacting next of kin is under way.
The crash, which makes this the bloodiest day for foreign troops in Afghanistan in 2014, is not thought to have involved any enemy action.
An MoD spokesman said: “We can confirm that a UK helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan today.
“The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further until families have been notified.”
Today’s deaths bring the total number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month to seven.
Nato forces are currently preparing to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year, with responsibility for fighting the Taliban insurgency handed over to the Afghan army and police.
If British casualties are confirmed, t hey would follow the previous deaths of 448 members of UK service personnel in Afghanistan.
It would be one of the worst air crashes involving British forces in the war torn country.
In September 2006 a Nimrod surveillance aircraft from RAF Kinloss in Scotland exploded mid-air while supporting Nato ground operations near Kandahar, killing all 14 servicemen on board.
The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) coalition of international forces said earlier today in a statement: ” Five International Security Assistance Force service members died as a result of a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan today.
“Isaf is still in the process of reviewing the circumstances to determine more facts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends affected by this tragic event.”
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf said the helicopter was on a routine military exercise when Taliban fighters hit it in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar, Channel 4 News reported.
The helicopter involved is likely to have been a Westland Lynx Mk 9, according to reports.
Lynx helicopters are light utility aircraft used for a wide range of operational capabilities, including transport and resupply.
They usually carry a crew of three, including a pilot, co-pilot and gunner.
It is thought that the other two military personnel on board could have been travelling as passengers.
Defence analyst Paul Beaver said: “It is difficult to speculate on what has happened, but it sounds like this was a flying accident instead of a case of the aircraft being shot down.
“It could be weather related, it could be dust or it could have been trying to avoid birds, for example, or it could be some kind of mechanical failure. There is a whole range of possible causes.”
Mr Beaver said that a board of inquiry would have been set up immediately by the Military Aviation Authority to establish the reasons for the crash.
Mr Beaver said the investigation would look at the aircraft’s log books and other documentation, in addition to weather conditions and whether the helicopter was carrying out an authorised job according to its capabilities.
He explained that although Nato troops are gradually withdrawing from Afghanistan they are still involved in military operations.
“The draw down is happening but it does not mean British troops have stopped operations,” he said.
“This helicopter could have been taking people from one location to another or it could have been inserting or recovering people.”
Today’s accident is believed to be the worst helicopter crash to take place in Afghanistan since the war began there more than 12 years ago.
In May 2006, a Lynx aircraft crashed in Basra City, Iraq, killing the five servicemen on board.
A spokesman for Governor of Kandahar province, Tooryalai Wesa, said the accident happened near Kandahar City due to “technical problems”, the Daily Mirror reported.
Spokesman Dawakhan Minapal said: “Today at 11am (0630 GMT) an ISAF helicopter crashed due to technical problems in Takhta Pul district. As a result five ISAF soldiers were killed.”