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Russian helicopter crash kills 18 troops

Russian helicopter crash kills 18 troops

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MOSCOW - A Russian military helicopter crashed during a combat mission against separatist guerrillas in Russia's southern republic of Chechnya on Friday, killing at least 18 soldiers, authorities said.

Initial reports said the craft was brought down by rebel fire, but officials later said it was more likely that mechanical failure was the cause. Three insurgents were also reported killed in the battle, but others apparently escaped into nearby mountains.

The helicopter was carrying Special Forces soldiers and three crew members, Russian news agency RIA Novosti said.

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