KABUL, Afghanistan — At least five U.S. soldiers were killed and seven were injured Sunday when their helicopter crashed near American military headquarters north of the Afghan capital, U.S. Central Command said.
The cause of the crash was being investigated.
The soldiers were involved in an operation dubbed Mountain Resolve taking place in the eastern part of the country, Central Command said by e-mail from Tampa, Fla.
Mountain Resolve has been unfolding since Nov. 7 in eastern Nuristan and Kunar provinces, but so far no major skirmishes with suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda holdouts have taken place.
Bagram air base, just north of the capital, is home to most of the 11,600 coalition personnel in Afghanistan. An additional 5,000 international peacekeepers patrol Kabul.
Also Sunday, two American soldiers were wounded in Paktika province when their vehicle struck a land mine while patrolling in Shkin, near the Pakistani border.
Staff Sgt. Roy Mitchell, 32, of Batesville, Ind., suffered burns to his face, neck and back and had his left leg amputated, officials said. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Eichner, 31, of Stonington, Penn., was wounded in the back by shrapnel and suffered a broken hand. They were flown to the city of Khost for treatment.
In Kabul on Sunday, Afghan soldiers opened fire on former army officers and other Defense Ministry personnel who stormed the ministry building in a protest seeking back wages. One demonstrator was killed and three were wounded, authorities said.
About 200 protesters among a group of 1,000 rushed the gate. Some opened fire with pistols, knocking out windows, said Gen. Zahir Azmi, a ministry spokesman. "The soldiers had no choice but to fire back," he said.
The Defense Ministry has undergone sweeping reforms in recent months aimed at making it more ethnically balanced. The government has dismissed more than 20,000 people from the ministry and plans to fire 30,000 more.
The protesters want their jobs back and are seeking wages for their final months of work. Azmi said the ministry would pay back wages but doesn't have the money yet.