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  1. ITV Report

Sixteen Colombian police officers killed in helicopter crash while searching for drug lord

A file image of a UH-60 Black Hawk. Credit: Reuters

Sixteen Colombian police officers have been killed after their helicopter crashed while searching for the nation's most wanted drug lord.

Two other officers were critically injured when the US-made UH-60 Black Hawk came down in a wooded area of north-west Colombia.

The officers were hunting for Dairo Otoniel Usaga, leader of Colombia's most violent drug-smuggling gang.

The area where the helicopter crashed - in dense jungle dominated by drug traffickers and a refuge for leftist rebels - fuelled speculation that the helicopter may have been shot down.

Colombia's Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas confirming the officers' deaths. Credit: Reuters

But the country's defence minister said two other helicopters also participating in the mission did not detect any gunfire.

Low-lying cloud likely obstructed the pilot's vision, causing it to crash at 110mph into a hillside, Luis Carlos Villegas added.

There were three helicopters in the operation, and the other two didn't hear any shots fired apart from those from the three helicopters [in the operation].

– Luis Carlos Villegas

The United States is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of Otoniel, who runs Colombia's most violent drug-smuggling gang.

Since February, efforts to find Otoniel have been stepped up.