BEIRUT, (Reuters) – A Lebanese army helicopter made a forced landing after being hit by gunfire in south Lebanon on Thursday, the military said, adding that the pilot had been killed.
An army statement said the helicopter came under fire from “armed elements” while on a training mission over Iqlim al-Touffah district — mountainous ridge north of a zone where U.N. peacekeepers have a mandate to operate.
It said the aircraft was hit and had to crash land near the village of Sujoud. The pilot was identified as First Lieutenant Samer Hanna.
The statement said an investigation was underway. Iqlim al-Touffah is a stronghold of the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah.
Lebanese soldiers and Hezbollah members cordoned off the area and stopped journalists from approaching the crash scene. The army deployed in the southern border region, along with a reinforced U.N. peacekeeping force, after Israel’s war with Hezbollah guerrillas in 2006.
Ten Lebanese soldiers were among 15 people killed in a bomb attack in the northern city of Tripoli this month. There have been no claims of responsibility for the attack.