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15 police officers killed in Colombia helicopter crash

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2015 | 3:42 PM

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP):

SIXteen police officers died yesterday when the Black Hawk helicopter they were travelling in crashed in the volatile northwestern region, the country's police agency said.

The police said in a statement that two other uniformed personnel were in critical condition and being treated for injuries.

Investigators were rushing to the scene to investigate what led to the crash in a densely jungled area near the Gulf of Uraba region.

The police said the aircraft was part of a mission hunting Dairo Otoniel Usaga, leader of the country's most violent drug-smuggling gang. Since February, authorities with the support of the US Drug Enforcement Administration have intensified the manhunt for Otoniel, for whose capture the United States has offered a US$5-million reward.

The helicopter crashed in an area that is a major haven for the Usaga clan as well as leftist rebels, but police said preliminary data suggested a mechanical failure was to blame.

The incident follows the death of 11 air force personnel whose airplane crashed last week near the Caribbean coast.