MEDELLIN, Colombia, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A Black Hawk helicopter crashed Tuesday during an anti-drug operation in northwestern Colombia, killing 16 police officers, according to officials.
Police say the aircraft went down in the northern Antioquia department during an operation to arrest Luis Orlando Padierna Penam, a leader in a powerful drug-smuggling gang known as the Usuga Clan, the BBC reports.
Antioquia is in a remote mountainous region 280 miles northwest of Bogota. The BBC quoted Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas as saying the aircraft “crashed against the side of the mountain, possibly due to low cloud cover.”
Earlier reports tallied 15 police officers killed and two injured and suggested mechanical failure was to blame for the crash.
The BBC quoted Villegas as saying the helicopter had not taken fire, despite rumors to the contrary.
A Black Hawk helicopter crashed in central Colombia in May, killing four military personnel. The country’s defense ministry attributed the crash to mechanical failure.
On Friday, a Colombian military transport plane suffered engine failure and crashed in Agustin Codazzi, 400 miles north of Bogota, killing all 11 airmen aboard.