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Hostile fire not suspected in Afghan air crash

U.S. MC-130E
A plane similar to this MC-130E crashed near Gardez, Afghanistan  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Air Force officials said Thursday that the crash of a military aircraft that killed three service members does not appear to have been caused by enemy fire.

A U.S. Air Force team is en route to Afghanistan to investigate the crash, according to a U.S. military spokesman.

"The cause of the crash is not known at this time, although it does not appear to be the result of hostile fire," Col. Roger King said Thursday.

The names of the victims have not been released pending notification of next of kin, King said.

Seven other military personnel survived when the U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130H aircraft crashed on takeoff Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan.

They were listed in stable condition Thursday at a medical facility in Kandahar, King said. Their injuries ranged from a broken leg to cuts and bruises. Two required further treatment and will be evacuated to an air base in Landstuhl, Germany, King said.

War Against Terror: Fallen Servicemen 
 MC-130E/H Combat Talon Description 
CNN's Jamie McIntyre says the crash of a U.S. MC-130 transport in southeast Afghanistan does not appear to be a result of hostile fire.

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The remains of the three who were killed will be transported to the United States.

"Operations in a combat environment are dangerous inherently," King said.

"Every time we have an accident, we do an investigation to try to see if we have other things we can do to further mitigate the risk, but it's a risky business."

The MC-130H crashed on takeoff from a forward operating base around 9:30 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) near the Bande Sardeh Dam, about 40 miles southwest of the eastern Afghan town of Gardez.

U.S. forces in the region are probing suspected al Qaeda holdouts along the Pakistan border.

The MC-130H is the special operations version of a C-130, capable of transporting up to 129 troops and paratroopers.

Modifications include the addition of an in-flight refueling receptacle and strengthening of the aircraft tail to allow high speed/low-signature airdrop.

An upgraded navigation system enables the aircraft to locate and either land or airdrop on small, unmarked zones with pinpoint accuracy day or night.

Known as the Combat Talon II, the aircraft has four turboprop engines and is outfitted with laser-guided weapons systems that pour heavy sustained fire onto targets.

The Combat Talon first flew in the 1960s and was used extensively in Southeast Asia.

A KC-130, a refueling and transport version of the same aircraft, crashed in western Pakistan in January, killing all seven Marines on board. (See story.)

-- CNN's Jamie McIntyre and Lisa Rose Weaver contributed to this report.




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