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Eight killed after peacekeeping force's helicopter crashes in Egypt

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Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) helicopter and personnel work at the site of the French military transport aircraft crash in the Sinai region of Egypt in 2007
Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) helicopter and personnel work at the site of the French military transport aircraft crash in the Sinai region of Egypt in 2007   -   Copyright  AFP
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Two Europeans were among eight people killed after a peacekeeping force's helicopter crashed in Egypt.

They were all uniformed members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission, which oversees a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Six of the victims were from the United States, one from France and another from the Czech Republic, MFO said in a statement.

One person survived the accident, but was seriously injured the force added.

"During a routine mission in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, nine members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) were involved in a helicopter crash," the statement read.

"We are deeply saddened to report that eight uniformed MFO members were killed; six US citizens, one French, and one Czech.

"One US MFO Member survived and was medically evacuated. Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

"The MFO will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident."

The helicopter came down near Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Egyptian resort city on the Red Sea. The MFO did not give a precise location of the crash or say whether the helicopter fell on land or crashed into the sea.

An Egyptian official speaking on condition of anonymity per regulations, said the helicopter crashed over Red Sea waters outside Egyptian territorial boundaries.

Islamic militant groups and a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group are known to be active in Sinai. But the MFO said there were no signs of an attack. “At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” it said.

An Israeli official said the injured peacekeeper was airlifted by the peacekeeping force to the Israeli border city of Eilat. From there, he was flown to an Israeli hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The Czech Republic’s military confirmed one of the fatalities of the Black Hawk’s crash was Czech. It said the cause of the crash was a technical malfunction and added that the survivor is in critical condition.The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Gen. Ales Opata, expressed his condolences and identified the victim in a Facebook post as Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha.

The MFO monitors the four-decade-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Thirteen countries contribute troops to the MFO, with the United States making up the largest contingent. Its responsibilities include monitoring troop levels along the border and ensuring the freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran.