Nine NATO troops were killed in a helicopter crash in the insurgent heartland of southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, making 2010 the deadliest year for international forces since the war began.

The Taliban, which has been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency against the Afghan government and foreign troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted it from power, immediately claimed responsibility.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the cause of the crash was “under investigation”, adding: “There are no reports of enemy fire in the area.”

The helicopter came down in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, said provincial spokesman Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar.

The Taliban said the insurgents shot the helicopter down and killed “more than 10 foreign soldiers”. Another NATO soldier, an Afghan soldier and a U.S. civilian were injured, said ISAF, but did not identify their nationalities.

CNN television said the dead were Americans, quoting on its website an unnamed “Western defence source”. But ISAF was unable to comment and said the details would be released by the country of origin.

The incident brings to 529 the number of foreign troops killed this year, according to an AFP tally based on the count kept by icasualties.org, surpassing the previous record of 521 deaths in 2009.

A total of 2,097 coalition troops have now died since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001.

After only nine months, 2010 has now become the deadliest year of the long war, with the extra deployment of international forces to nearly 150,000 drawing more battlefield engagements and leading to a spike in casualties.

June was the deadliest month of the war for coalition troops, with 103 fatalities, the tally shows.

Keywords: copter crashNATO

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