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Coalition copter crashes in Afghanistan; search launched

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NEW: Crew reported an engine failure before going down in southeastern region
NEW: Search-and-rescue launched; investigation will be conducted
NEW: NATO troops killed a man mistakenly thought to be a suicide bomber
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A coalition helicopter went down in southeastern Afghanistan early Sunday after reporting an engine failure, according to a statement issued by the coalition headquarters in Bagram.

A search-and-rescue operation for the helicopter and its occupants was launched. "An investigation will be conducted into the cause of the incident," the statement said.

No further information was immediately available.

Also Saturday, NATO troops in southern Afghanistan shot and killed a man they mistakenly thought was a suicide bomber, according to NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The incident occurred near Kandahar Airfield, in Kandahar province, and involved ISAF personnel.

ISAF said a man had been running "between the vehicles of a stopped convoy."

ISAF troops "believing he might be a suicide bomber, attempted to stop him. A gunner on one of the vehicles flashed a light at the individual after he kept moving toward the convoy, then fired warning shots. When the individual failed to stop, ISAF forces fired upon him."

They later determined the man -- who died at a medical facility at Kandahar Airfield -- was not carrying explosives.

"ISAF deeply regrets this loss of life" ISAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Angela Billings said in the statement.

"ISAF forces attempted to warn the individual away from the convoy, but he did not respond. Local nationals are encouraged to keep clear of all convoys, whether they are moving or stopped, to avoid further incidents," the statement said.

On Thursday, President Bush warned that U.S. and NATO forces can expect a heating up of the Taliban offensive as the snow melts in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

In comments to the American Enterprise Institute, Bush said "fierce fighting" will continue in the Afghan-Pakistani frontier region, but he vowed that international forces are ready.

"Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks," Bush said. "Our strategy is not to be on the defensive but to go on the offense. This spring there's going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan and it's going to be a NATO offensive, and that's part of our strategy."

Bush described the resurgence of Taliban and their attacks in 2006 as the "most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country."


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An Australian soldier in the NATO-led force patrols in Uruzgan province on Saturday.

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