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Helicopter Crash In Colombia Kills 16 Police Officers

A police helicopter has crashed in a jungle area of north-west Colombia, killing at least 16 officers.

The policemen were on an operation to try to arrest one of the leaders of the Usuga Clan, a powerful drug-smuggling gang that operates in the region.The Black Hawk helicopter crashed in a remote mountainous area of Antioquia.

Colombian Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said it probably “crashed against the side of the mountain, possibly due to low cloud cover”.

Antioquia is 450km (280 miles) north-west of the capital, Bogota.An initial police investigation had blamed the loss of the aircraft on technical failure.

The presence of criminal gangs and left-wing rebels in the area of the crash led to rumours that the helicopter had been shot at. But Mr Villegas said two other aircraft taking part in the operation didn’t report any gunfire. An earlier report from Colombian police said 15 officers had died and two injured.

Last week, 11 air force personnel died in a helicopter crash near the Colombian Caribbean coast. The police operation was aimed at arresting Luis Orlando Padierna Pena, known as Inglaterra (England), El Tiempo newspaper reported. The alleged head of the clan is Dairo Antonio Usuga David, known as Otoniel.

The US has offered a reward of up to $5m for information leading to his arrest.