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Black Hawk helicopter crashes in Colombian jungle, killing 15 police officers

Colombian police exit a Black Hawk helicopter on May 5, 2015.
Colombian police exit a Black Hawk helicopter on May 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTA

BOGOTA – Fifteen police officers died Tuesday when the Black Hawk helicopter they were travelling in crashed in the volatile northwestern region, the country’s police agency said.

The police said in a statement that two other uniformed personnel were in critical condition and being treated for injuries.

Investigators were rushing to the scene to investigate what led to the crash in a densely jungled area near the Gulf of Uraba region.

READ MORE: WATCH: Colombian police seize over three tonnes of cocaine

The police said the aircraft was part of a mission hunting Dairo Otoniel Usaga, leader of the country’s most violent drug-smuggling gang. Since February, authorities with the support of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have intensified the manhunt for Otoniel, for whose capture the United States has offered a $5 million reward.

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The helicopter crashed in an area that is a major haven for the Usaga clan as well as leftist rebels, but police said preliminary data suggested a mechanical failure was to blame.

The incident follows the death of 11 air force personnel whose airplane crashed last week near the Caribbean coast.