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US Says Marine Helicopter Was Shot Down

Fiel photo of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter.
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 14, 2007
A US Marine transport helicopter that crashed a week ago was shot down, the military said Wednesday, after an earlier report had suggested mechanical failure. It was the seventh US helicopter, including two private aircraft, to go down in a three week-span. Seven people died in the crash on February 7, while 27 have been killed in all six crashes.

The spate of crashes has raised fears that Iraqi insurgents have improved their tactics or acquired more powerful weapons, although US commanders insist there is no firm evidence of this.

"Initial evidence indicated that the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter went down as a result of mechanical failure," Major Jeff Pool said in a statement. "After further investigation using all available means, the cause of the incident has been confirmed to be hostile fire.

"Speculation as to capabilities of the enemy's weapons, or our tactics to counter them, will not be discussed to guard the safety of our service members," he added.

A video released on the Internet purportedly by the Al-Qaeda in Iraq Sunni insurgent group appears to show the twin rotor transport chopper being brought down by a ground-to-air missile. The CH-46 is a big, relatively slow helicopter first developed during the Vietnam War.

But the other helicopters lost in Iraq since January 20 were more recent models -- including two Apache gunships with cutting-edge defences that were nonetheless hit by fire from the ground.

Earlier this week, US General Jim Simmons broke down the army's incidents for the press.

- US army Blackhawk call-sign Easy 4-0 was hit by heavy machine gun fire northeast of Baghdad on January 20. All 12 people on board were killed.

- US army Blackhawk Tarantula 2-6 was brought down by automatic weapons fire near Hit in western Iraq on January 26, with no casualties.

- US army Apache gunship Big Gun 7-2 was hit by a machine gun and "other weapons systems" while in combat outside Najaf on January 28. Both crew members were killed.

- US army Apache Crazy Horse 0-8 was shot down north of Baghdad of February 2 with the loss of both crew members. The crash is being investigated. In addition, two helicopters working for the American private security firm Blackwater were shot down in the same period.

There has been speculation that insurgents and Shiite militia are equipped with new weapons, but that has been downplayed by a Pentagon spokesman, and analysts say a wide range of weapons are capable of shooting down the aircraft.

The worst US chopper crash in Iraq involved two Blackhawk transports near Mosul in the north of the country on November 15, 2003, and killed 17 soldiers.

Two weeks earlier, 16 soldiers died when their CH-47 Chinook was shot down near Fallujah in Anbar province.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Baghdad (UPI) Feb 13, 2007
A top U.S. general says that the Iraqi army brigades tapped for duty in the Baghdad troop surge have shown up on time and with -- for the most part -- the promised number of soldiers. "This movement of these three brigades and two separate battalions into Baghdad to our way of looking at it has gone very well," said Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, in an interview Monday with United Press International.







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