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U.S. Service Member Still Missing After Helicopter Crashes Off Yemen

A U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flies in a training exercise in 2015.

A service member remains missing after a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the coast of Yemen during what officials described as a training exercise.

U.S. forces rescued five other troops who also went down in the crash and are still searching for the sixth service member, according to U.S. Central Command. The incident took place about 20 miles from the southeastern coast of Yemen around 7 p.m. local time Friday.

Officials said they would begin an investigation.

CENTCOM didn't provide the identities of any of the service members involved, nor any details concerning why the accident happened. Spokesman Col. John Thomas, however, told Reuters, "when the incident took place the helicopter was not very high above the water."

The U.S. is waging a campaign against an arm of the al-Qaida terrorist group that has secured, in the words of U.S. officials, a "heavy" presence in Yemen. U.S. forces have launched more than 80 airstrikes in the region since late February.

The Trump administration's efforts to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula began with controversy. A raid at the end of January that killed 14 al-Qaida militants, 23 civilians and one American Navy SEAL, was deemed a "failure" by Sen. John McCain and defended as a "winning mission" by President Trump.

As NPR has reported, Yemen is in the midst of a brutal civil war that, by the United Nations' count, has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people. The country is also facing a cholera outbreak, which Save the Children estimates has produced more than 425,000 suspected cases.

Friday's crash comes days after the U.S. Coast Guard called off its search for five missing Army soldiers after two Black Hawk helicopters collided off the coast of Hawaii.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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