A Venezuelan National Guard helicopter crashed during a counter-drug mission near the Colombian border, killing all 10 soldiers on board, President Hugo Chavez has said.

Officials were investigating why the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter crashed “within a few minutes” after taking off on Friday, Mr. Chavez said in a televised speech, reading off the names of the victims.

The helicopter was searching for a group of suspected drug traffickers in south-western Apure state, National Guard Gen. Luis Alfredo Motta Dominguez told state television.

The accident occurred near the town of Buena Vista on the Meta River, which runs along the border with Colombia, Mr. Motta said. The victims included three officers and seven other National Guard troops, he said.

More In: International | News