Afghan ministry says helicopter crash kills 2 crewmembers during patrol in country's north

This is a locator map for Afghanistan with its capital, Kabul. (AP Photo)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — An Afghan military helicopter crashed in the country's north Sunday after hitting a power line base, killing at least two crewmembers, the Defense Ministry said.

The MD-530 chopper was patrolling in the area after it took off from northern Balkh province and crashed in the Kholim district in Samangan province, a ministry statement said.

Officials said the chopper hit the base of a high voltage power line before crashing.

It's unclear how many helicopters, including U.S. choppers, are in the hands of the Taliban-run government. As the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed in mid-August 2021, dozens of Afghan pilots fled to Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Afghan air force pilots played a key role, alongside their U.S. counterparts, in the 20-year war against Taliban insurgents. The conflict ended with the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2021. Helicopter airstrikes inflicted heavy casualties among the Taliban and repeatedly drove them from positions they had seized in different parts of the country.

After the Taliban took over the country, about 140 Afghan pilots and others were flown out of Tajikistan to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates en route to their final destination in the U.S.