KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO helicopter was shot down by hostile fire Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, killing four American troops, NATO and the U.S. military said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the insurgents shot off two rockets to down the helicopter.
The attack occurred about midday in Sangin district of Helmand province, provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said.
Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale, U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, confirmed the four troops killed were Americans, but the military and NATO gave no other details.
U.S. troops have been building in southern Afghanistan — the Taliban's heartland — as part of President Barack Obama's surge strategy to try to end the nearly nine-year-old insurgency.
Obama last December ordered some 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and most of them are due to be deployed in the south.
U.S. commanders are planning a major operation in Kandahar that they hope will turn the tide of the war in time for American troops to begin withdrawing on Obama's stated timetable starting in July 2011. Helmand province abuts Kandahar.
Insurgents have stepped up attacks ahead of the Kandahar operation. The spike in violence has killed 28 NATO troops this month, including Wednesday's casualties.