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Kabul crash claims 7 Germans

Kabul, Dec. 21 (Reuters): Seven German servicemen were killed today when their helicopter crashed just outside Kabul, Germany’s defence minister said.

The cause of the crash was not known, but officials from the 22-nation International Security Assistance Force said they believed it may have been caused by engine trouble rather than a missile attack or other foul play.

German defence minister Peter Struck said seven German members of the international force had died.

Major Gordon Mackenzie, the force’s spokesman had earlier said six were confirmed dead and one was missing.

Witnesses said the crash sent plumes of fire and smoke into the air. “The helicopter was completely destroyed,” German Lieutenant-Colonel Andreas Steffan said. “We are waiting for our explosives ordnance people to check it over before they can lift it up, and then maybe we will find other people.”

He said the aircraft had been on a routine patrol. “It was very sad,” Steffan said. “It is very hard, because maybe you spoke with the guy in the helicopter in the morning, then you know he’s dead and will never come back.”

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose father was a German soldier killed in Romania during World War II, said he was “greatly shaken”.

Earlier, witness claimed to have seen the bodies of two children at the ground. Mackenzie said this was incorrect. “There were no children,” he said. “We would have known by now.”

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