Helicopter accident kills 15 police officers in Colombia

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 04, 2015 3:54 PM

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Fifteen policemen were killed on Tuesday when a helicopter fell to the ground and burst into flames in a wooded region of northwestern Colombia, the National Police said.

Police said the U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk apparently suffered a mechanical failure while taking part in a counter-narcotics operation in the department of Antioquia some 450 km northeast (280 miles) of the capital of Bogota.

"As a result of this incident, 15 policemen were killed and two others wounded," the police said in a statement.

The crash comes four days after 11 soldiers were killed when a Spanish-made CASA C-235 suffered motor failure and crashed in the northeast of the country.

The policemen killed on Tuesday were taking part in a crackdown on a criminal gang known as "Clan Usuga," made up of former right-wing paramilitaries.

The head of group, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel," leads 2,000 men. The United States is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.

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Colombia's security forces have dozens of Black Hawk helicopters that are used in the government's offensive against leftist guerrillas, criminal gangs and drug traffickers.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Frances Kerry)