Sixteen Colombian police officers have been killed after their helicopter crashed while searching for the nation’s most wanted drug lord.
Two other officers were critically injured when the US-made UH-60 Black Hawk came down in a wooded area of north-west Colombia.
The officers were hunting for Dairo Otoniel Usaga, leader of Colombia’s most violent drug-smuggling gang.
The area where the helicopter crashed – in dense jungle dominated by drug traffickers and a refuge for leftist rebels – fuelled speculation that the helicopter may have been shot down.The U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk may have crashed because of bad weather or a mechanical failure while taking part in a counter-narcotics operation in the department of Antioquia some 450 km northeast (280 miles) of the capital, Bogota.
The incident is under investigation.The accident came four days after 11 soldiers died when a Spanish-made CASA C-235 suffered motor failure and crashed in the northeast of the country.The United States is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of Otoniel, who runs Colombia’s most violent drug-smuggling gang.
Since February, efforts to find Otoniel have been stepped up.