Marine Helicopter Down in Afghanistan

A U.S. helicopter crashed near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan on Thursday, killing one Marine and injuring 14 others, the military said.

A U.S. statement ruled out hostile fire in the crash.

The injured troops were taken to Camp Salerno, an American base near Khost city, 90 miles south of the capital, Kabul. Four with serious injuries were then taken to the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul, the statement said.

"The helicopter was destroyed in the crash, but did not burn," the statement said. "Hostile fire was not involved."

A local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a technical fault caused the helicopter to go down in Gurbuz, a district in Khost province along the mountainous frontier.

More than 130 American soldiers have died since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (search) to drive the Taliban (search) from power and attack its Al Qaeda (search) allies.

Many of the deaths have come in accidents, including several helicopter crashes. The last deadly crash, in which five soldiers died, occurred near Bagram in November.

At least 23 Americans have died in fighting this year, making 2004 the deadliest combat year yet. Two soldiers and their Afghan translator were killed by a roadside bomb Saturday.

Khost, a former Al Qaeda stronghold in a belt of border territory where a Taliban-led insurgency is strongest, has seen some of the heaviest fighting.

The American military sent helicopters and bombers to join an all-day Aug. 3 battle near the border that killed up to 70 militants and two Afghan soldiers. The rebels, who attacked an Afghan border post, came from Pakistan and retreated there with many of their dead, Afghan officials said.

U.S. commanders insist insurgents are on the defensive but have been unable to halt attacks on Afghan and U.S. forces, as well as civilians.

The military recently launched a new operation designed to prevent attacks before the Oct. 9 presidential election. Twelve election workers have been killed in attacks so far.