KABUL, Afghanistan

NATO helicopter crashes, killing 9 service members

A helicopter carrying international troops crashed in a rugged section of southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing nine service members in the deadliest such incident in four years for coalition forces.

A “large number” of Americans were among the dead, according to a senior military official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. One other coalition service member, an Afghan National Army soldier and a U.S. civilian were wounded.

The coalition would not disclose the helicopter’s mission, and the cause of the crash was not immediately clear. NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire in the early morning hours in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, where the crash took place.

However, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone that insurgents shot down the helicopter. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims and sometimes take credit for accidents.

“The Taliban are not involved in this crash at all,” said Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Zabul.


Military chief says violence possible if talks collapse

With an Israeli-Palestinian impasse on settlement construction set to come to a head this weekend, the Israeli military chief said Tuesday that new Palestinian violence could erupt if peace talks collapse.

The Palestinians are threatening to quit the talks unless a 10-month restriction on settlement construction is extended beyond its planned expiration on Sunday. Israel says it cannot be extended, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely face coalition trouble if he backed down. Netanyahu on Tuesday warned the Hamas movement – which rejects peace with Israel, has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and already carried out one deadly attack this month – against a new round of violence.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

Water temperature may kill corals in Caribbean

Caribbean corals are being exposed to water temperatures higher than those reported during a record bleaching period five years ago and could start dying in the coming weeks, scientists said in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The warning comes after islands entered the warmest month of the year for water temperatures, which means the problem is just starting, said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch network.

“I would love for the forecast to be wrong,” he said. “But the potential for bleaching this year is higher than in 2005.”

When corals are exposed to very warm water, they either expel or consume the colorful algae they host, which leads to the bleached color. If the stress is not too severe and decreases in time, the affected corals can regain their symbiotic algae. But if the stress is prolonged and the algae populations do not recover, the coral host eventually dies.


Bridge collapse hampers preparations for games

Less than two weeks before it begins, one of the world’s biggest sports events is in jeopardy as organizers struggle to cope with unfinished buildings, a filthy athletes’ village called “unfit for human habitation,” a bridge collapse, concerns over security and corruption, and an outbreak of dengue fever in New Delhi. The last-minute preparations for the Commonwealth Games are highlighting the problems in the developing nation of more than 1 billion people that is still plagued by vast areas of poverty. The latest blow came Tuesday, with the collapse of a footbridge being built to connect the main stadium to a parking lot. Police said 23 construction workers were injured, five seriously.