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Pentagon sources deny helicopter downed

The U.S. has been using helicopters for Special Forces operations inside Afghanistan  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon on Tuesday denied reports of a U.S. helicopter crash in Pakistan, with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, saying: "There was no helicopter shot down in Pakistan."

Provincial Pakistani officials told CNN that a helicopter crashed Sunday in the southwestern province of Baluchistan on the night of November 4 as the copter was returning to Dalbandin air base. Some of the officials said the aircraft involved was a U.S. helicopter.

"When we have a helicopter that goes down, no matter for what purpose, we tell you," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at a news briefing he attended with Pace. "And these other things are not happening. They are fiction."

Pentagon sources said that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has rigid procedures to convey information about such an incident "within an hour."

CENTCOM is the command group that oversees U.S. military action in Afghanistan and surrounding region.

Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said at a news briefing Tuesday that he had no information about a crash.

"There is no confirmation of any such incident so far," Qureshi said.

Local journalists in Pakistan told CNN that eyewitnesses had told them of significant activity Monday morning about 18 miles (30 km) south of Dalbandin.

The witnesses said C-130 aircraft and helicopters were seen in the area with a plume of smoke coming from the ground. Dalbandin is one of four Pakistani air bases the U.S. military is using for logistical and search and rescue operations.

Five Pakistani sources, including provincial government officials, told CNN about the alleged crash. Provincial officials told CNN they were sending two search-and-rescue teams to the area to investigate.

Taliban officials in Kandahar said they were checking into the report, but have not made any claim to have shot down a U.S. helicopter.

-- CNN's Bob Franken, Allison Flexner and Jeff Levine contributed to this report.


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