A United Nations helicopter carrying three crewmembers crashed in northern Liberia on Friday. A U.N. spokesman says two of the three crewmembers are dead and the condition of the third is unknown. The names and nationalities of those on board have not yet been released. Kari Barber has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.
Ben Malor, spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) says the helicopter was on a routine flight from the border with Guinea to the border with Ivory Coast when it went down.
"We have received a report from the scene that the crashed helicopter had been on fire. We can confirm two members of the team are dead," he said. "The third one, we do not really know the condition of the third one if this person, this colleague, has survived and in what state."
Malor says investigations have begun into what caused the helicopter, which was carrying cargo, to crash.
"We have our teams at the crash site as I speak with you," he added. "We also have some of colleagues from the Bangladeshi contingent there with the medical team. We have also set up a joint investigation team made up of members of the Liberian civil aviation authority and also UNMIL aviation safety personnel. They have started an investigation into the crash."
Malor says U.N. helicopters on mission in Liberia have crashed before, but this is the first time there have been casualties.
He says as of Friday, the U.N. is halting all planned flights of these helicopters.
"Immediately the U.N. mission has grounded all of its civilian MI-8 helicopters until further notice," he said
A total of 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers have been stationed in Liberia since the end of the nation's civil war in 2003. That number is expected to be drawn down over the next three years.