May 4, 2009 / 3:04 AM / 11 years ago

Venezuela military helicopter crash kills 17

CARACAS (Reuters) - Seventeen people were killed when a Venezuelan military helicopter crashed on patrol in a mountainous region near the border with Colombia,

The dead included an army general, several military officials and a civilian, the state news agency said.

President Hugo Chavez said earlier that 18 people had died in the accident.

“I have just received very bad news, an accident involving a helicopter of our armed forces and the death of its crew,” Chavez said during his weekly television show.

Attempts by emergency officials to remove the bodies from the crash site in the southern state of Tachira were complicated by heavy rain and cloud. It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.

The leftist Chavez also mentioned a U.S. anti-terrorism report which accused Venezuela of not doing enough to tackle Colombia’s drug-trafficking Marxist guerrilla groups at war with the government.

“Eighteen dead Venezuelans, now, today on Sunday, patrolling the border and the United States accuses us of not patrolling,” he said.

Venezuela has a long and porous border with Colombia which crosses remote jungle and mountain regions frequented by rebel groups and drug-traffickers.

Venezuela caught five members of Colombia’s National Liberation Army rebel group at the weekend and said they would be deported.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero

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