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UK RAF MR2 Nimrod maritime patrol lost in Afghanistan, killing 14

The UK Royal Air Force suffered its worst air loss during operations in Afghanistan over the weekend, with the death of 14 personnel in the crash of a Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft.

The RAF is expected to release further details of the incident today. At present few details of the crash are known and UK defence minister Des Browne, says: "This is not the time for speculation, as the operation to secure the crash site is ongoing." The first priority was to inform the families of those killed, he added.

The defence ministry says indications are that this was a terrible accident and not the result of hostile action, despite Taliban claims to have shot the aircraft from the sky.

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The UK’s most senior RAF officer, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, says:   "At the moment there is no reason to believe that the aircraft was lost as a result of hostile action. A board of inquiry has been convened to determine the cause of this tragic loss."

The aircraft was based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland as was part of the UK's operations in Helmand province.
The MR2 fleet is due to be retired by 2011, replaced progressively with the BAE Systems MRA4s, which should enter service by 2009.

Earlier this year Flight International defence editor Craig Hoyle spent three days in Afghanistan as part of a UK Ministry of Defence and Royal Air Force-managed visit to Kabul and Kandahar airfield. Read his blog here.

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