Sinai helicopter crash kills seven peacekeepers
Five Americans, a French citizen and a Czech citizen died
A helicopter crash in Egypt's Sinai desert involving a multinational observer force killed seven people on Thursday – five Americans, a French citizen and a Czech citizen, officials said.
"During a routine mission in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, nine members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) were involved in a helicopter crash," it said in a statement.
Another member of the force, an American, survived and was medically evacuated, the MFO added. Earlier reports from the US military had the American death toll at six.
An official with the Multinational Force and Observers, Brad Lynch, said earlier that it was "actively investigating an incident involving one of our helicopters today".
The Israeli army said separately that it had offered to provide immediate medical assistance.
An army "helicopter carrying elite search and rescue soldiers... was scrambled to the Ramon airport (in southern Israel)," Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
Israeli and Egyptian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one survivor was being airlifted to an Israeli hospital. An Egyptian official said the UH-60 Black Hawk was on a reconnaissance mission and crashed near the island of Tiran.
The peacekeeping force flew the survivor into the resort of Eilat, Israel, from where he was then taken by an Israeli helicopter to a hospital further north.
Both sides said the crash appeared to be caused by a technical failure and there were no signs of the aircraft being attacked.
The multi-national force said in its statement that it would conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.
"At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident," the MFO said.
Acting US Secretary of Defence Chris Miller said his department was "deeply saddened" by the loss of life so close to Veterans Day.
"Yesterday we recognised the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service," he said in a statement.
Islamic militant groups affiliated with ISIS are known to be active in Sinai. In February 2018, security forces launched a nationwide operation against militants, focused on North Sinai.
More than 930 suspected militants have been killed in the region along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.
The Multinational Force and Observers is a peacekeeping force that is not linked to the UN.
The international force was formed to ensure no military build-up on the borders after the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. With its headquarters in Rome, the force brings together soldiers from 14 countries including the US, France, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Fiji, Japan and Norway. There are also civilian observers.
Updated: November 13, 2020 03:51 AM