US military helicopter crashes in western Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. military helicopter has crashed in western Iraq with seven service members on board, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The officials said that so far there is no indication that the Pave Hawk helicopter was shot down.
The helicopter is 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
Officials said that rescuers were responding to the location, but other details were not yet available. It’s not clear if there were any survivors.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the crash before it was made public.
In a short statement, U.S. Central Command said that “rescue teams are responding to the scene of the downed aircraft at this time,” adding that an investigation will be started to determine the cause of the incident.
The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State insurgents 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 Iraq 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.