Two days of mourning are underway in Spain for the 17 soldiers and civilians killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday. It is still not known if their helicopter was downed by mechanical failure, or if the Taliban’s claim they shot it down is true.
The men were part of Spain 850-strong contingent in the NATO led peacekeeping force in the country.
The chopper came down near Herat in the west, in a mountainous zone. A second helicopter accompanying it made an emergency landing after it saw a column of smoke and feared an attack.
Prime minister Zapatero said they died doing a priceless job. “They honoured their promise in the name of Spain. Even far from their country they gave their lives – defending freedom and peace – supreme values that the whole of Spain is committed to”, he continued.
Defence minister José Bono has flown to Afghanistan to help in the identification of the victims, and the repatriation of their bodies. Spain has now lost 79 personnel during NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
In 2003, 62 died when the transport plane bringing them home crashed in Turkey.