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10 U.S. troops likely killed in copter crash

Associated Press
Published February 19, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya - Rescue crews called off operations Saturday after the U.S. military said it has accounted for 10 American troops who were aboard two transport helicopters that crashed into the sea. The military declined to reveal their fate until family members were notified.

The U.S. military normally publicly acknowledges any successful rescue, as it did Friday in announcing that two injured crew members were recovered.

"We are not giving additional details on the status or condition of the crew out of respect for the next-of-kin," said Maj. Susan Romano of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

The CH-53E choppers, carrying a dozen crew and troops from the counterterrorism force, went down Friday in the Gulf of Aden.

The two rescued crew members were flown Saturday to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Romano said. They were in stable condition.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, Romano said, adding that Navy divers and aviation experts were on the scene and a large section of a CH-53E helicopter had been found.

Visibility had been good at the time of the crash, with light winds, authorities said.

The helicopters were on a nighttime training mission at the time of the crash. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, said Friday that there was no indication of hostile fire.

Members of the Djiboutian military who were near the impact site rescued two injured crew members, according to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, set up in the former French colony in June 2002, is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia in Africa and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

The helicopters are part of the HMH 464 squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C.

The impoverished region, which is home to many Muslims, is a well-established recruiting ground for terrorist groups, and U.S. officials describe it as a critical theater in fighting terrorism.

The region has already suffered four terrorist attacks, all either claimed by or attributed to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network. In August 1998, car bombs destroyed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in October 2000 suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole in Yemen; and in November 2002 attackers tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner minutes before a car bomb destroyed a hotel on Kenya's coast.

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:10:11]

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