Ten Feared Dead After U.S. Helicopter Crash in Philippines
The MH-47E Chinook helicopter went down in flames yesterday after dropping off U.S. special forces and supplies to military headquarters on the southern island of Basilan. There were eight crew members and two Air Force para-rescue jumpers aboard the aircraft.
“We have found no survivors from the mishap aircraft,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster, head of the U.S. contingent. “We, of course, hope they are alive and we are doing everything with our Philippine friends to find them.”
Details of the crash remain unclear, but officials say there are no signs that the crash was the result of enemy fire or foul play.
The soldiers are taking part in joint U.S.-Philippine training exercises aimed at battling members of the Islamic Abu Sayyaf guerillas organization.
The Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf is said to be involved with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and are holding a Kansas missionary couple and a Filipino nurse hostage on Basilan island.
“There was no indication of anything amiss before this thing happened,” Wurster said. “All we know is the helicopters were flying back on a routine transit mission when one of them crashed for unknown reasons.”
The helicopter that had accompanied the downed aircraft remained in the area after the crash to conduct an aerial search, and two of its crew members jumped into the water to begin searching for survivors. Scuba divers are now on the site that is thought to be more than 1,400 feet deep while police are combing the shore for debris.
Amidst the search, the military announced they have completed the deployment of 160 special forces troops to the Philippines. When fully deployed, the U.S. mission will involve about 660 Americans, marking the largest expansion of the U.S. military’s anti-terrorism campaign outside of Afghanistan.