British Chopper Carrying 7 Crashes

IL Serge Pod #09.04.2001 23:00

Serge Pod


Monday April 9 1:58 PM ET
British Chopper Carrying 7 Crashes

By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer

KACANIK, Yugoslavia (AP) - A British helicopter with seven on board crashed Monday in heavy rain above mountainous terrain close to Kosovo's tense boundary with Macedonia.

NATO (news - web sites) officials said some on the chopper were injured but gave no details beyond saying they were being treated at Kosovo's main U.S. military base, Camp Bondsteel, about 25 miles southeast of Pristina, the provincial capital.

In London, a Defense Ministry spokesman said three crew members and four passengers were on the Puma chopper, which can carry up to 15 people.

There was no indication that the crash was a result of any gunfire, said Maj. Fergus Smith, a spokesman for the 3,500-strong British contingent serving with the NATO-led Kosovo peace force.

The chopper went down about 3:45 p.m. near Kacanik, 30 miles south of Pristina, said Maj. Axel Jandesek, a spokesman for the 45,000-member peace force, or KFOR. Visibility was poor, with heavy rain and low clouds.

The Kosovo-Macedonia border has been the scene of fighting in recent weeks between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian government troops trying put down the insurgency.

But the region has been relatively quiet over the past week, with Macedonian authorities claiming to have regained control.

British troops have been among those sent to reinforce the border over the past weeks in an attempt to reduce the movement of men and arms to and from Macedonia and thus help contain the insurgency.

Dozens of helicopters of the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force fly the region on any given day, on missions including transporting personnel and supplies or carrying out aerial surveillance.

Peacekeepers moved into Kosovo in mid-1999 after NATO bombing forced former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites) to order an end to a crackdown on Kosovo's Albanians and pull out his forces. Kosovo is a province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic.

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