December 1, 2014 / 4:01 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. Air Force pilot killed in crash in Middle East: Central Command

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Air force pilot died on Sunday when an aircraft crashed while returning to its base in the Middle East, U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Monday.

The cause of incident involving a F-16 Fighting Falcon is under investigation and emergency responders were still at the scene, Central Command said.

A Central Command statement said the plane had taken off shortly before trying to return to its base in the Middle East. It said the crash did not occur in Iraq or Syria and was not combat related.

The incident comes amid a U.S.-led air strike campaign in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State forces, which have seized wide swaths of territory in those two countries and declared an Islamic caliphate.

U.S. and coalition forces have launched scores of air strikes against the militant group in Iraq in recent months and began strikes in Syria in September.

It was not immediately clear if Sunday’s crash was related to the air strike campaign effort. Central Command said it would give details on the crash later.

Officials did not identify the pilot.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott

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