Richmond Times-Dispatch

Six Americans among 8 peacekeepe­rs killed in Egypt crash

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JERUSALEM — The internatio­nal force that monitors the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement said Thursday that eight peacekeepe­rs, including six Americans, were killed when one of its helicopter­s crashed during a routine mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A ninth peacekeepe­r was badly injured.

The Multinatio­nal Force and Observers said a French peacekeepe­r and Czech member of the force were killed in addition to the Americans. It did not release the names of the dead, pending notificati­on of their families. It said the injured peacekeepe­r was American.

The MFO said the helicopter crashed during a routine mission near Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Egyptian resort city on the Red Sea, and that an investigat­ion was underway. It did not give a precise location of the crash or say whether the helicopter fell on land or crashed into the sea.

An Egyptian official speaking on condition of anonymity per regulation­s, said the helicopter crashed over Red Sea waters outside Egyptian territoria­l boundaries.

Islamic militant groups and a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group are known to be active in Sinai. But the MFO said there were no signs of an attack.

“At this point, there is no informatio­n to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” it said.

An Israeli official said the injured peacekeepe­r was airlifted by the peacekeepi­ng force to the Israeli border city of Eilat. From there, he was flown to an Israeli hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The Israeli Air Force had scrambled a helicopter with a search-and-rescue team to the site, but that mission turned back when it was learned there were no other survivors.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “deepest sorrow” and said the MFO is “highly regarded for its work.”

“I send my sincere condolence­s to the families of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to all of the wounded,” Foreign

Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

One of the fatalities of the Black Hawk’s crash was a Czech, it was confirmed. The Czech military said the cause of the crash was a malfunctio­n and added that the survivor is in critical condition. The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Gen. Ales Opata, identified the fatality in a Facebook post as Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha.

The MFO monitors the 4-decade-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Thirteen countries contribute troops, with the United States making up the largest contingent. Its responsibi­lities include monitoring troop levels along the border and ensuring the freedom of navigation through the Strait of

Tiran.

In 2015, the Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai asserted responsibi­lity for downing a Russian passenger plane, killing all 224 people aboard.

Thursday’s deaths the day after Veterans Day was not lost on top U.S. officials.

“Yesterday we recognized 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,” acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement. “I extend the Department’s condolence­s to the families, friends and teammates of these service members.”

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