U.K. military plane crashes in Afghanistan, 14 killed

A plane supporting a NATO mission crashes in southern Afghanistan after reporting a technical problem, killing 14 British troops.

A reconnaissance aircraft carrying 14 British military personnel crashed about 15 kilometres west of Kandahar on Saturday, killing all on board, defence officials said.

For Britain, itwas the biggest single loss of life since the start of its mission in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance aircraft was on a mission for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and was supporting a NATO mission in the Panjwaii district, a Taliban stronghold. Canadian troops are leading a major operation in the district dubbed Operation Medusa to clear out Taliban fighters.

It'sbelieved to have been brought down by a technical fault, possibly a fire in its electronic equipment, ISAF said. Defence Secretary Des Browne told the BBC theaircraft had a good safety record.

"Enemy action has been discounted at this stage," the ISAF said in a statement said.

The British Defence Ministry said the dead included 12 Royal Air Force personnel, a Royal Marine and an army soldier.

The "aircraft was supporting a NATO mission. It went off the radar and crashed in an open area in Kandahar," said ISAF spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy.

Haji Eisamuddin, a local tribal elder, told the Associated Press by phone that the wreckage of the plane was burning in an open field near Chalaghorvillage.

"I can see three [or] four helicopters in the sky, and coalition forces are also arriving in the area," he said.

Abdul Khaliq, a purported spokesman for the Taliban,claimed the guerrilla group had shot down the aircraft.

With files from the Associated Press