- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2020

Seven military members of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Egypt, including five Americans, were killed Thursday when their helicopter crashed in the southern Sinai Peninsula.

A Czech national and a French national were also killed in the crash, officials said. The eighth member of the flight, also an American serviceman, reportedly survived and was in critical condition as he was transported to a hospital in Israel.

The coalition force ruled out the possibility of an attack, and authorities believe a mechanical malfunction caused the fatal crash. The deaths outnumber the four American combat troops who have been reported killed for all of 2020 in Afghanistan.

In a statement, the coalition force said there is “no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident.”

“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 MFO coalition said in a statement.”We are deeply saddened to report that eight uniformed MFO members were killed.” Names are being withheld as the coalition notifies next of kin.

The MFO offered differing numbers on U.S. casualties throughout the day but said late Thursday that five had been killed and one wounded. The fatalities were reportedly members of a National Guard unit.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement that the department is “deeply saddened” by the incident.

“Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service,” said Mr. Miller, who was appointed to the top Pentagon civilian post in an acting capacity following President Trump’s firing of former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper.

“I extend the department’s condolences to the families, friends and teammates of these service members,” he said.

The coalition said an investigation is being launched into the cause of the crash. The names of those killed had not been released Thursday evening pending notification of next of kin, the U.S. military said.

Although it is one of the less-prominent U.S. deployments around the world, American troops have been on the Israeli-Egyptian border for decades. The multinational force was established to carry out a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel stemming from the Camp David Accords of 1978.

Roughly 400 Americans are stationed in the Sinai region as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. An additional 750 military forces from 13 countries also participate in the efforts. Task Force Sinai is made up of active-duty, reserve and National Guard members.

“We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support of Egypt and Israel in the recovery effort,” the coalition said.

In a tweet, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. stands “in solidarity with our French and Czech partners as we all face the loss of our troops today in the Sinai Peninsula.”

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee offered his condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the crash and praised the MFO’s work in the region to “maintain peace and stability.”

“I am heartbroken by today’s tragic news that eight uniformed members of the Multinational Force and Observers, including six American citizens, were killed in a helicopter crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican.

“I extend my condolences to the family and friends of these brave individuals.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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