Five US Army special forces troops have been killed in a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean Sea 30 nautical miles off southern Cyprus.
The MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was on a refuelling training mission when it crashed off the coast of Cyprus late Friday, officials told The New York Times.
An investigation has been launched, but no hostile activity is indicated.
The Pentagon has dispatched commando teams – including Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 – to the region to stand by for hostage rescues in the Gaza Strip. Cyprus is around 150 miles from Israel.
The Pentagon has surged forces into the region as a show of force and a demonstration of solidarity with Israel designed to discourage adversaries such as Iran from further inflaming tensions. As part of that effort, the United States has deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups, each comprising about 7,500 troops.
It was unclear what role Cyprus may be playing in US Special Operations troops’ presence in the region. US relations with the island country have been expanding, with the Biden administration lifting a decades-old arms embargo last year.
The helicopter was from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment – the Night Stalkers – which ferries commando forces on secret raids.
United States European Command (EUCOM) said in a statement: ‘Out of respect for the affected families, and in accordance with Department of Defense policy, the identities of the crewmembers are being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin notifications have been completed.’
Joe Biden said in a statement: ‘Jill and I mourn the loss of five American service members who died when their aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea during a training mission.
‘We are praying for the families and friends who lost a precious loved one — a piece of their soul. Our entire nation shares their grief.’
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said: ‘While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe.
‘They represent the best of America. We will remember their service and their sacrifice.’
Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, EUCOM comprises 65,000 permanent military personnel responsible for US military operations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean.
On November 3, European Command announced three days of Naval exercises had taken place in the Mediterranean, where two carrier strike groups have been positioned since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
The USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower are currently in the region to warn Iran against getting involved in the current conflict.
European Command said 11,000 people participated in the exercises and ‘trained on high-value unit defence, ballistic missile defence, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations, and maritime security operations.’
In August, three US marines were killed, and 20 others were injured in an aircraft training in Australia.
Their Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft plunged to the ground and burst into flames on remote Melville Island.
US Marine Corps crew chief Corporal Spencer Collart, 21, pilot Captain Eleanor LeBeau, 29, and Major Tobin Lewis, 37, died in the crash. (source various media)