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25 killed in crash of Afghan Army helicopter

An Afghan National Army Air Corps Mi-17 helicopter takes off on a mission here in 2008. The ANAAC is being mentored in western methodologies of flying operations by members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Keith Brown)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

An Afghan National Army helicopter carrying senior officials has crashed in bad weather in the western province of Farah, killing all 25 on board, a local official says.

Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the mountainous Anar Dara district in the morning of October 31 heading toward the nearby province of Herat.

He said the copter crashed in bad weather. A Taliban spokesman said the militants shot it down.

Mehri said the passengers included the deputy corps commander of Afghanistan’s western zone and the head of the Farah provincial council.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed the militants had downed the helicopter but failed to provide evidence. Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed rejected the Taliban claim of responsibility as “totally wrong.”

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck outside Afghanistan’s largest prison on the eastern edge of Kabul, killing at least seven people, including prison workers and security personnel, officials said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the attacker targeted a bus carrying prison workers early on October 31. The sprawling Pul-e Charkhi prison houses hundreds of inmates, including scores of Taliban militants.

According to Abadullah Karimi, a prison official, the attack occurred near the prison gate where a number of visitors were waiting to pass a rigorous security check before entering.

At least seven people were killed, and another five were wounded in the blast, the officials said.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.