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US military helicopter crashes in western Iraq; seven dead

By: QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA , Associated Press
March 15, 2018 Updated: March 16, 2018 at 7:12 am
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Undated image made available by the US Air Force Tuesday Jan. 7 2014 of a USAF HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. (AP Photo/ US Air Force Lakenheath)

BAGHDAD — All seven service members aboard a U.S. helicopter that crashed in Iraq were killed, the Pentagon said Friday in a written statement.

The aircraft crashed in western Iraq a day earlier, U.S. officials said.

The officials said seven service members were on board. They spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the crash before they were made public.

The crash did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and is under investigation, the Pentagon said.

"This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria.

The helicopter was used by the Air Force for combat search and rescue, and was in transit from one location to another when it went down Thursday afternoon near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province.

The Pentagon said an accompanying U.S. helicopter immediately reported the crash and a quick-reaction force comprised of Iraqi security forces and Coalition members secured the scene.

The names of those killed will be released after next of kin have been notified, the statement added.

The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have an outpost in Qaim, which is located near the Syrian border. The anti-IS campaign accelerated through much of last year, as coalition and Iraqi forces battled to take back a string of cities and towns.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over IS in Mosul in July. In the following months, Iraqi forces retook a handful of other IS-held towns including Tal Afar in August, Hawija in September and Qaim in October. In November, Iraqi forces retook the last Iraqi town held by IS — Rawah, near the border with Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition has continued to work with Iraq and Syrian Democratic Forces to shore up the border region to make sure that foreign fighters and insurgents can't move freely across the region.

___

Associated Press writers Susannah George in London and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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