- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya — The U.S. military said yesterday that 10 U.S. troops died when two transport helicopters crashed into the sea last week off the coast of Djibouti.

The CH-53E choppers, carrying a dozen crew and troops from a U.S. counterterrorism force, went down Friday in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan. Two crew members were rescued.

The search for the others was called off Saturday when the military said it had accounted for the 10 troops, but it declined to reveal their fate until family members were notified.

The troops included U.S. Marines and two Air Force airmen, according to a statement by the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa.

“Our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers go out to the family members, friends, loved ones and co-workers of our fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley, commanding general of the counterterrorism force. “We mourn their loss and honor their memory.”

Relatives had been notified, but names of those killed were being withheld, according to the statement.

The rescued troops were in stable condition and were flown to the U.S. military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southern Germany on Saturday.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, task force spokesman Maj. Susan Romano said.

Visibility had been good at the time of the crash, with light winds, authorities said.

The family of Marine pilot Susan Craig said she was one of those rescued. Miss Craig, 28, telephoned her parents, Pat and Lewis Sackett on Saturday afternoon, her mother said in an interview with a local newspaper.

Mrs. Sackett later told the Associated Press that her daughter had called from Kuwait and was heading to a hospital in Germany. Miss Craig was rescued by Djiboutian military personnel, Mrs. Sackett said.

Mrs. Sackett said her daughter was not sure what caused the crash.

“They had an inflatable around their neck that they inflated, and they hung onto a piece of the aircraft,” she said. “It was three hours before they were rescued.”

The Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa, set up in the former French colony in June 2002, is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and Yemen.

U.S. officials say the impoverished region has been used by terrorists as a place to hide, recruit operatives and stage attacks.

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