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6 Americans, 2 other service members killed in Egypt helicopter crash

A helicopter crash in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula took the lives of eight Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeepers, the MFO stated on Thursday.

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A helicopter crash in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula took the lives of eight Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeepers, the MFO stated on Thursday.

The crash occurred Thursday morning in the southern part of the peninsula near the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh and took the lives of six Americans, as well as one French and one Czech national. All of these fatalities were military service members. One American peacekeeper survived the crash and has been transported to a hospital in Israel, the Israeli military stated according to Reuters.

The helicopter involved in the incident was a Black Hawk that was on a supplying mission. The Czech Defense Ministry said that the crash was “caused by technical issues,” multiple outlets have reported, including Reuters and CNN.

The Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller in a statement tweeted out Thursday by the Department of Defense expressed his sadness at the loss of these service members and offered his condolences to the members’ friends, families, and colleagues.

“We are saddened by the loss of 6 US and 2 partner nation service members in a helicopter crash in the Sinai Peninsula operating with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO),” he said.

With Veterans Day having happened on Wednesday, Miller added: “Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions who have defended our nation, and today we are reminded of the last full measure our warriors may pay for their service. I extend @DeptofDefense’s condolences to the families, friends, and teammates of these service members.”

The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace accord saw the demilitarization of the peninsula and placed the U.S.-led MFO in charge of monitoring that process. Israeli forces had occupied the peninsula after capturing it from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War but left after the 1979 U.S.-brokered treaty.

Reuters’ Dan Williams notes that the size of the MFO in Sinai has decreased over the years as the countries next door have bolstered their cooperation in defeating Islamist militants on the peninsula. The U.S. has been wanting to reduce its involvement in the MFO, which Egypt and Israel have historically opposed since a large portion of MFO personnel are American and, in the case of Egypt, has brought in billions of dollars in U.S. defense aid.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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Joe Biden

President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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