15 die in Iraq chopper crash
From a correspondent in Baghdad, Iraq
02 Nov 03
THE US military command said today that 15 soldiers were killed and
more than 21 wounded when their US Chinook helicopter was shot down
The wounded were all transferred to medical facilities and
authorities are searching for more survivors, the US military said.
The Chinook helicopter was believed to be carrying dozens of soldiers
to their leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed in corn
fields west of Baghdad, witnesses and US officials said. A coalition
official had earlier said that at least two soldiers were killed and
Meanwhile, other American soldiers were reported killed in ground
attacks here and elsewhere in central Iraq, as insurgents pressed a
campaign that has stepped up in recent days a "tough week," in the
words of the US occupation chief.
In Abu Ghraib, on Baghdad's western edge, US troops clashed with
townspeople on Sunday for the second time in three days, and
witnesses reported casualties among both the Americans and Iraqis.
There was no immediate official confirmation.
Witnesses south of Fallujah, 64 kilometres west of the capital, said
they saw two missiles fired at the helicopter, which came down near
the village of Hasi, 10 kilometres to the south. Fallujah is a centre
of Sunni Muslim resistance to the US occupation.
"The Chinook was shot down by an unknown weapon," a US military
spokesman in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity.
American military officials have repeatedly warned that hundreds of
shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles remain unaccounted for in Iraq
since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in April. Insurgents
have fired on US aircraft before, but this was the first known
shootdown involving the Baghdad airport.
Across Iraq, it was the third helicopter known to have been brought
down since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.
The helicopter was part of a formation of two Chinooks carrying more
than 50 passengers to the US base at the former Saddam International
Airport, renamed Baghdad International.
"Our initial report is that they were being transported to BIA for
R&R flights," that is, rest and recreation leaves abroad, a US
command spokeswoman in Baghdad said. She said at least some were
coming from Camp Ridgeway, believed to be an 82nd Airborne Division
base in western Iraq.
Witnesses said the second copter hovered over the down craft for some
minutes and then set down, apparently to try to help extinguish a
fire, but the downed copter was destroyed.
At least a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters later hovered over the
area, and dozens of soldiers swarmed over the site. Injured were
still being evacuated at least two hours later.
Local villagers displayed blackened pieces of wreckage to arriving
reporters, and in nearby Fallujah townspeople celebrated on the
streets. "This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the
greedy aggressors," said one Iraqi, who wouldn't give his
name. "They'll never be safe until they get out of our country," he
said of the Americans.
Townspeople also reported a fresh attack on US soldiers inside
Fallujah, saying an explosion struck one vehicle in a convoy at about
9 am Sunday (local time). They claimed four soldiers died, but US
military sources said they couldn't confirm the report.
In a separate incident, military sources said a soldier from the 1st
Armored Division was killed just after midnight in an explosion in
In Abu Ghraib, local Iraqis said US troops arrived on Sunday morning
and ordered people to disperse from the marketplace and remove what
the Iraqis said were religious stickers from walls. Someone then
tossed a grenade at the Americans, witnesses said, and the soldiers
The US command said it had no immediate information, but Iraqi
witnesses said they believed three or four Americans were killed and
six to seven Iraqis were wounded.
The presence of the portable anti-aircraft missiles has represented a
significant threat for military aircraft and raised concerns over the
security of the few commercial flights in and out of Baghdad
International Airport. The US-led coalition has offered rewards of
$US500 apiece to Iraqis who turn them in.
A US Army Blackhawk helicopter crash-landed on October 25 in Tikrit
after being hit by an unknown weapon, injuring one crewmember. On
June 12, a US Army Apache attack helicopter was shot down by hostile
fire in the western desert, and two crewmembers were rescued unhurt.
The Pentagon had announced on Friday it was expanding the home leave
program for troops in Iraq, to fly more soldiers out of the region
each day and take them to more US airports. As of Sunday, it said,
the number of soldiers departing daily via a transit facility in
neighbouring Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280.
The workhorse, 10,000kg Chinook, which has a crew of four, is the
military's most versatile heavy-lift helicopter, used primarily for
troop movements, transporting artillery and similar functions.
This report appears on news.com.au.