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U.S. military helicopter crashes in western Iraq

U.S. military helicopter crashes in western Iraq
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The chopper that crashed in Iraq is an HH-60, which is similar. (Charles Rosemond /Handout/EPA-EFE)

A U.S. military helicopter has crashed in western Iraq with seven service members on board, U.S. officials said Thursday.

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The officials said that so far there is no indication the Pave Hawk helicopter was shot down.

The helicopter is used by the Air Force for combat search and rescue, and was in transit from one location to another when it went down Thursday afternoon near the town of Qaim in Anbar province.

Officials said rescuers were responding to the location, but other details were not yet available. It’s not clear whether there were any survivors.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the crash before it was made public.

In a short statement, U.S. Central Command said that “rescue teams are responding to the scene of the downed aircraft at this time,” adding that an investigation will be started to determine the cause of the incident.

The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria have an outpost in Qaim, which is located near the Syrian border. The campaign accelerated through much of last year, as coalition and Iraqi forces battled to take back a string of cities and towns.

Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory over Islamic State in Mosul in July. In the following months Iraqi forces retook a handful of other militant-held towns including Tall Afar in August, Hawija in September and Qaim in October. In November, Iraqi forces retook the last Iraqi town held by Islamic State — Rawah, near the border with Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition has continued to work with Iraq and Syrian Democratic Forces to shore up the border region to make sure that foreign fighters and insurgents can’t move freely across the area.

5:45 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the U.S. Central Command.

This article was originally published at 4:10 p.m.

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