15 Colombian police killed in helicopter crash

AFP , Tuesday 4 Aug 2015

Fifteen police were killed Tuesday in Colombia when a helicopter taking part in an anti-drug trafficking operation crashed in a remote jungle-covered region, the national police force said.

A total of 17 officers were on board the Blackhawk helicopter, which was involved in an operation against the powerful Clan Usuga drug gang in northwestern Colombia's Antioquia department, said a police statement.

The other two officers were injured and taken to a hospital in the town of Apartado, it said.

Preliminary investigations indicate the crash was caused by mechanical failure, but specialists will carry out a detailed analysis, said the statement.

It is the second deadly crash to hit the Colombian security forces in recent days. On Friday, 11 Colombian soldiers were killed when the air force plane transporting them went down in the Las Palomas region.

The pilot in that crash had reported engine trouble.

Clan Usuga is the main drug gang in Colombia, the world's leading producer of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.

President Juan Manuel Santos's government has intensified its offensive against the gang in recent months.

A UN report recently found coca cultivation in Colombia exploded 44 percent last year, yielding potential cocaine production of 442 tonnes -- a 52 percent increase from 2013.

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