A helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque and several dignitaries was fired on while flying over a cocaine-producing region in eastern Colombia near the border with Venezuela, Bloomberg reported.
No one was injured in Friday’s incident, Duque said in an audio message sent by his press office.
The presidential Black Hawk received six bullet impacts after approaching the border city of Cúcuta traveling from the hamlet of Sardinata in Colombia’s troubled Catatumbo region, according to the news magazine Semana.
Illegal armed groups tied to drug trafficking operate in Norte de Santander province, where the attack took place, Boomberg reported.
These include dissident members of the Marxist FARC guerrilla organization, who turned their back on the peace process and took up arms again.
“I want to inform the country that, after fulfilling a commitment in Sardinata, in the Colombian Catatumbo, and approaching to land in the city of Cúcuta, the presidential helicopter was the victim of an attack,” said President Duque, after landing.
“The Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Norte de Santander and myself were in the helicopter. Both the aerial device and the aircraft’s capabilities prevented something lethal from happening.
“The truth is that it is a cowardly attack, where bullet holes are seen in the presidential aircraft,” he added.
Catatumbo is a region in the Norte de Santander department bordering Venezuela and has long been a center of operations for both leftist guerillas like the ELN nd EPL as well as narcotics mafias, Finance Colombia reported.
In recent years the government has been ineffective at providing a civil security and law enforcement presence in the region.
The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a military helicopter designed to function in combat situations, and used extensively by the US military all over the world.
It provides both pilots armor-protective seats, and the armored fuselage can withstand hits from up to 23mm shells.
To defend itself, it is equipped with an AN/APR-39, a lightweight radar that warns of radar-directed threats and allows it time to take appropriate evasive maneuvers and deploy chaff.
It also has a 4 bladed main rotor and a single 4-bladed tail rotor, both with titanium core making them resistant to AAA fire up to 23mm.
“We will continue working every day and demonstrating that the state is present anywhere in the territory. I have also given very clear instructions to the entire security team to go after those who shot at the aircraft and also put other people’s lives at risk,” said Duque.
Minister of Defense Diego Molano has announced a reward of up to 3 billion pesos (US$796,000) for information leading to the capture of the shooters.
Security forces are already searching the Cúcuta neighborhoods near Cúcuta’s Camilo Daza international airport.
Five Colombian anti-drug police were killed in a helicopter crash in a rural area of Colombia on May 31, Yahoo News reported.
The Bell UH-1 “Huey” was en route in the district of Bolivar in Colombian jungle territory. The left-wing guerrilla group ELN is still active in the area.
A representative from the US embassy said an investigation into the crash is looking at a possible mechanical issue, as the cause.