Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 21:47 UK

Venezuela army helicopter crashes


Local TV aired footage from the crash site

A Venezuelan military helicopter has crashed killing 18 people near the country's border with Colombia, President Hugo Chavez has said.

One general, 16 other soldiers and one civilian, died in the incident, Mr Chavez told the nation.

President Chavez gave the news in his weekly broadcast. He named the general as Domingo Faneite.

"I pay tribute to these soldiers of the homeland, especially Gen Faneite, who was my cadet," Mr Chavez said.

The cause of the crash, in the state of Tachira, is not yet clear.

Reports say radio contact with the helicopter was lost shortly after midday local time.

The crash comes days after the Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe, asked Venezuela to help Bogota root out left-wing Farc guerrilla members hiding out in the mountains on the Venezuelan side of the border.

However, it has not been confirmed if the mission was related to any intensified efforts against the rebels on Venezuela's part.

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