Taiwan's military chief of staff has been confirmed dead after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed into a mountain near Taipei on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Defense.

A UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter carrying 13 military officers crash-landed just minutes after taking off on a routine mission to visit soldiers in Yilan county. Military Chief of Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) and seven others were killed in the crash.

The incident comes only days ahead of Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections on January 11. President Tsai Ing-wen, who is running for re-election, announced that she would cancel all election rallies and related events for three days.

"As the commander-in-chief, President Tsai Ing-wen and her administration will focus on the rescue operation and investigate the cause of the accident," Tsai's campaign office stated.

President Tsai expressed condolences on Facebook. "General Chief of Staff Shen yi-ming was an excellent leader who was well-loved. We are extremely saddened by his departure," she wrote.

Among the dead included Political Warfare Bureau Deputy Director Yu Chin-wen (于親文) and Chief Master Seargent Han Cheng-hung (韓正宏).

Before the investigation is completed, the utmost priority is to ensure the stability of Taiwan's armed forces and the regular operations of national defense, Tsai added.

Kuomintang presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu has also announced a pause to his campaigning activities.

Since Taiwan purchased the UH-60M Black Hawks from the United States in 2010, this is the second fatal incident involving the military helicopter. Six were killed in February 2018 when a Black Hawk crashed off the coast of Lanyu Island.

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