14 British soldiers killed in plane crash
The Taliban claimed to have shot down the plane.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- A NATO plane crashed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday afternoon, killing 14 British soldiers near an area where troops had been fighting with insurgents.
The daily death toll was the worst since NATO took control of the troubled southern provinces from the U.S.-led coalition just over a month ago.
Although the Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane, a NATO news release said the aircraft suffered a technical problem. British Defense Secretary Des Browne told reporters in Britain that the crash appeared to be a "terrible accident."
Niazmohammad Sarhadi, the head of the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, said the plane first passed over the nearby Jerai district, where Canadian troops had been engaged in a fierce battle with Taliban-led insurgents since Friday evening. The plane was probably carrying troops between the Kandahar airbase and Helmand, where British troops are based.
"As it passed over Panjwai, we saw flames coming from the tail," Sarhadi said, adding that he saw the plane shoot off anti-missile flares.
The plane crashed in a grape vineyard. Abdul Manan, a witness in Chalaghor village, told The Associated Press that the plane crashed about 100 yards from his house. He said he saw a small fire at the back of the plane before it hit the ground.
The British Ministry of Defense said 12 Royal Air Force personnel, a Royal Marine and an army soldier died. The plane was a Nimrod MR2, a long-range aircraft used for reconnaissance and communications missions, the ministry said.
Mohammed Hanif, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, said the Taliban brought down the plane. He said he talked to the man, Abdul Jalil, a veterinarian, who had shot down the plane with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Taliban often claim to have downed any plane or helicopter that crashes in Afghanistan, regardless of the cause.