KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan military helicopter crashed in a remote region of the southern Zabul province on Thursday, killing a total of 17 soldiers, including five crew members, officials said.
Provincial police chief Mirwais Noorzai said the cause of the crash was not yet known and was under investigation. The Defense Ministry said the crash was believed to be caused by a technical problem, but provided no further details.
Afzal Aman, the Defense Ministry's chief of operations, described it as "the worst calamity to hit the air force." He confirmed the casualty figure, and said the dead included a unit commander and 11 soldiers, as well as the crew.
The Afghan military has been fighting the Taliban-led insurgency alone since U.S. and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year, shifting to a support and training role instead.
Aman said the helicopter was a Russian-made M-17, and was flying between Zabul's capital Qalat and Shinkay, 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.
The Taliban issued a statement on their website taking responsibility. The insurgents regularly exaggerate their battlefield gains.
Meanwhile, in eastern Logar province, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden truck detonated his payload outside provincial government offices, killing eight people and wounding another 12.
Din Mohammad Darwish, spokesman for the governor of Logar province, near Kabul, said the dead from Thursday's attack included three police officers and five civilians. Five police were among the wounded.
The massive blast, in provincial capital Puli Alam, blew out windows in buildings 500 meters (1,600 feet) away, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying the targets were military and paramilitary units.
The Taliban insurgency is currently in turmoil, following confirmation of the death of its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. Afghan authorities say he died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years ago.