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U.S. Service Member Still Missing After Helicopter Crashes Off Yemen

A service member remains missing after a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the coast of Yemen during what officials described as a training exercise.

U.S. forces rescued five other troops who also went down in the crash and are still searching for the sixth service member, according to U.S. Central Command. The incident took place about 20 miles from the southeastern coast of Yemen around 7 p.m. local time Friday.

Officials said they would begin an investigation.

CENTCOM didn't provide the identities of any of the service members involved, nor any details concerning why the accident happened. Spokesman Col. John Thomas, however, told Reuters, "when the incident took place the helicopter was not very high above the water."

The U.S. is waging a campaign against an arm of the al-Qaida terrorist group that has secured, in the words of U.S. officials, a "heavy" presence in Yemen. U.S. forces have launched more than 80 airstrikes in the region since late February.

The Trump administration's efforts to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula began with controversy. A raid at the end of January that killed 14 al-Qaida militants, 23 civilians and one American Navy SEAL, was deemed a "failure" by Sen. John McCain and defended as a "winning mission" by President Trump.

As NPR has reported, Yemen is in the midst of a brutal civil war that, by the United Nations' count, has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people. The country is also facing a cholera outbreak, which Save the Children estimates has produced more than 425,000 suspected cases.

Friday's crash comes days after the U.S. Coast Guard called off its search for five Army service members missing after one of two Black Hawk helicopters taking part in a training exercise went down off Hawaii.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 27, 2017 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story said the Coast Guard called off a search for missing Army troops after two Black Hawk helicopters collided off Hawaii. In fact, both helicopters were taking part in a training exercise but only one of them went down, for reasons that were unclear.
Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.