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.
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.
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.