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US Anti-Drug Plane Crashes in Southern Afghanistan

A child was killed and nine other people injured when a plane skidded off a runway and damaged nearby homes in southern Afghanistan. The Russian-made plane was leased to the U.S. government and was carrying an anti-narcotics team when it crashed.

Witnesses say the small plane overran the airstrip after narrowly avoiding a truck crossing the runway.

The plane skidded off the tarmac and into a community nearby.

The airfield is primarily used by U.S.-led troops operating in Lashkar Gah, the largest town in Helmand province.

Local officials say a three-year-old girl was killed and at least half a dozen other people were injured.

U.S. backed coalition forces cordoned off the area and helped transport the wounded to nearby medical facilities.

Coalition officials confirm the Russian-built plane was leased to the U.S. government and was carrying a small anti-narcotics team at the time of the accident.

"We are aware of the reports, we are investigating and we are in the process of determining the welfare and status of our personnel in Lashkar Gah and the Lashkar Gah area," said Lou Fintor, the U.S. embassy spokesman in Kabul.

Helmand is Afghanistan's largest opium-producing region, growing nearly 20 percent of the world's opium supply.

The province is also a stronghold for anti-government Taleban insurgents, many of whom are reportedly offering protection to opium farmers in return for safe haven.

Coalition forces recently initiated a large anti-narcotics operation targeting local drug lords and their Taleban backers in Helmand province.

When the ultra-conservative Islamic Taleban ran Afghanistan, starting in the late 1990s, it managed to sharply reduce the country's opium production. But since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taleban in 2001, opium growing has surged, creating a booming narcotics trade.