Monday, February 20, 2012

U.S. Special Ops Forces Killed in Plane Crash in Djibouti near Somali Border

Four Air Force Special Operators on a spy mission over east Africa died when their U-28 plane crashed as it was returning to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. It’s another reminder of the hidden costs of the U.S.’ expanding shadow wars in Africa.

Two captains, Ryan P. Hall and Nicholas F. Whitlock, Lt. Justin J. Wilkens and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, died in the crash. A spokeswoman for their home station, Hurlburt Field in Florida, said there was “no indication of enemy fire” causing their deaths.

The spokeswoman, Amy Oliver, confirmed that the crew of the single-engine U-28 had been on a mission that “had to do with ISR” — that is, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for special operations forces on the ground. The U-28 is a small, retrofitted commercial plane that looks indistinguishable from a civilian plane to the naked eye, especially from high in the air.

As the plane returned to Camp Lemonnier, a frequent hub for special operations in pursuit of terrorists in east Africa, “the tower saw smoke coming from the aircraft.” There was no visual identification into the cause of the crash, which Oliver said was still under investigation. Read More