Bosnia air crash kills four EU peacekeepers

June 20th, 2008 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  

Sarajevo, June 20 (DPA) A Spanish helicopter on a European Union (EU) peacekeeping flight crashed in the hills of central Bosnia, killing all four soldiers aboard, military officials said. The dead were two Spanish pilots and two German military officers, the Spanish Defence Ministry said in Madrid Thursday. They were on a transport flight in the Banja Luka region around noon when the craft went down for unknown reasons, the statement said.

The BO-105 chopper took off from Sarajevo and crashed in a heavily wooded, hard-to-reach area after sending a mayday call, European Union Force (EUFOR) headquarters said in Sarajevo. The crew of a second helicopter saw smoke rising from the crash site.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, officials said.

German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said in Berlin that the two German army personnel killed in the helicopter crash were members of the Saarland Brigade based in Rhineland Palatinate state and were among 130 personnel serving with EUFOR.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced shock, saying the four victims had been deployed on an important mission bringing freedom and stability to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Spain has the largest EUFOR contingent, some 350 of the nearly 2,200 troops serving in the 31-nation force.

Germany has about 120 soldiers in EUFOR, launched by the EU in 2004 to take over from NATO peacekeepers.

The BO-105 is a light helicopter developed by Germany’s Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm, now part of Eurocopter, a unit of Europe’s EADS defence and space company.

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