CAIRO – Eight international peacekeepers, including six Americans, were killed and one American was injured in a helicopter crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, officials said.
The peacekeepers belonged to the Multinational Force and Observers Mission, a Rome-based international peacekeeping force created by Egypt and Israel in 1979 when the neighboring nations signed a peace agreement. The force monitors their border and the Strait of Tiran.
The others killed were a Czech and a French team member. The MFO described the incident as a routine mission. An investigation is underway into the cause of the crash.
In a statement, the MFO suggested there was no indication that the incident was terrorism related. “At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” the force said.
The crash happened in the southern Sinai Peninsula near the island of Tiran, according to an Israeli official. The MFO said it occurred near the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The six Americans were U.S. National Guardsmen, said the Israeli official.
The American service member who survived was evacuated by the Egyptian military, the official said. The service member was transferred to an Israel Defense Forces aircraft near the Israeli city of Eilat. He was taken to a hospital.
The Israeli Air Force had scrambled a Blackhawk helicopter with a search-and-rescue team to the site, but that mission turned back when it was learned there were no other survivors.
In 2015, the Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai asserted responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people aboard.
Thursday’s deaths the day after Veterans Day was not lost on top U.S. officials.
“Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service,” said Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller in a statement. “I extend the Department’s condolences to the families, friends and teammates of these service members.”
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The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung reported from Washington.