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U.S. military helicopter crashes in western Iraq, killing all 7 on board

A US military UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter crashes in Iraq, Katterbach, Germany - 05 Mar 2018
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The chopper that crashed in Iraq is an HH-60, which is similar.
(Charles Rosemond / U.S. Army )

A U.S. military helicopter crashed in western Iraq, killing all seven people on board, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the aircraft, an HH-60 Pave Hawk, crashed at about 6:45 p.m. local time Thursday near the town of Qaim in Anbar province.

Military officials said that the crash did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and that the incident was under investigation.

An accompanying U.S. helicopter reported the crash, according to the Pentagon, and a quick-reaction force of Iraqi and U.S. troops secured the site.

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Quoting a witness, Iraqi news broadcaster Alsumaria reported Friday that the aircraft had fallen near a phosphate factory outside Qaim.

Qaim is about 10 miles southeast of Iraq’s border with Syria. The area, a desolate landscape of open desert that stretches for miles, has long been a sanctuary for Islamic State fighters and other jihadis in Iraq and Syria.

Though it has largely been defeated elsewhere, Islamic State maintains a presence near Qaim, from where it can also access the Saudi border.

U.S. forces are working alongside Iraqi troops at a base near Qaim as well as at the Al Asad air base, roughly 90 miles southeast of where the helicopter was reported to have crashed.

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In recent weeks, there have been reports of clashes between Islamic State militants and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in the vast region between Qaim and the Saudi border.

The HH-60 is a highly modified variant of the Black Hawk helicopter, used primarily for “day or night personnel recovery operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war,” according to the U.S. Air Force.

A U.S. official said the helicopter was not engaged in combat activity but had been transporting elements between locations.

The official added that there had been no recent incidents of aircraft damaged by ground fire in the area, and that the crash had almost certainly been caused by the helicopter hitting an obstruction.

The names of those killed will be released by the Pentagon after next of kin have been notified, Central Command said.

Bulos is a special correspondent.


UPDATES:

7:40 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times staff reporting.

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This article was originally published at 5:30 a.m.


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