Military investigating whether Canadian killed in Afghanistan

The military is investigating whether a Canadian soldier was among seven people killed when a helicopter was apparently shot down in Afghanistan.

The military is investigating whethera Canadian soldier may have been among the seven peoplethat were killed when a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down Wednesday night in Afghanistan.

"We are investigating the potential that a Canadian soldier was among the personnel aboard a helicopter that went down. More information will be released as it becomes available," saida spokesperson for Canadian Expeditionary Force Command.

The U.S. military saidfive American soldiers,a Canadian soldierand aBritish soldier died whenthe helicopter went down in Helmand province.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for taking down the chopper.

Initial reports suggested the helicopter was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, said one U.S. official. NATO confirmed there were no survivors.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, claimed in a phone call to the Associated Press that militants shot the helicopter down in southern Helmand province.

Ahmadi did not offer any proof for his claim, but he specified the helicopter crashed in the Kajaki district hours before NATO reported that information. Kajaki is the site of a hydroelectric dam and the scene of recent fighting.

NATO said the CH-47 Chinook was carrying a crew of five and two military passengers when it crashed. The cause was "being determined by military officials," it said.

Air strike called in

Earlier, NATO said troops going to the crash site were ambushed by enemy fighters and the unit called in an air strike "to eliminate the enemy threat." It did not say at the timeif the troops were from the U.S.-led coalition, NATO's force or the Afghan army. One civilian was injured by gunfire.

The CH-47 Chinook, a heavy transport helicopter with two rotors, can carry around 40 soldiers plus a small crew. The fact it was flying at night suggested the aircraft might have been carrying troops on a night air assault.

Kajaki is the site of a large U.S.-funded hydroelectric dam now being repaired so it can provide electricity to the southern city of Kandahar. British troops, who make up the bulk of the forces in Helmand province, have been engaged in fierce fighting around the dam protecting it.

Helicopter crashes in Afghanistan have been relatively rare:

  • A Chinook crashed in February in the southern province of Zabul, killing eight U.S. service members. Officials ruled out enemy fire as the cause.
  • In May 2006, another Chinook crashed while attempting a night landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 U.S. soldiers.
  • In 2005, a U.S. helicopter crashed in Kunar, after apparently being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 16 American soldiers.

With files from the Associated Press