BAGHDAD — A helicopter operated by the U.S. Embassy made an emergency landing near the Tigris River on Friday, setting off rumors among Iraqi citizens that U.S. combat troops hadn’t actually left.
The helicopter was on a routine flight transporting embassy personnel over Baghdad, according to embassy officials.
“The helicopter experienced a mechanical problem, requiring it to land. The pilot controlled the landing and set it down near the Tigris River. No one was injured and no property was damaged,” Michael McClellan, an embassy spokesman, said in a statement.
Last month, U.S. combat troops left Iraq, but the U.S. Embassy maintains a large diplomatic presence here.
According to one Iraqi media report, a U.S. Embassy helicopter experienced mechanical failure and landed in Baghdad. Residents wondered whether it was a U.S. military mission, according to interviews with people who asked not to be named to protect their privacy. Other residents wondered how a U.S. helicopter, with all its advanced technology, could have such problems.
For weeks, many Iraqis have had trouble believing that the combat force that invaded their country has fully left, and U.S. troops are quietly stationed somewhere.
Embassy officials, who operate out of a heavily fortified and guarded compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone, said the incident was handled without much incident.
After the helicopter touched down, diplomats called Iraqi security forces, which quickly responded and secured the area, McClellan said. A U.S. embassy flat-bed truck arrived, and took the helicopter back to the American Embassy under Iraqi security escort.
“There were no threats to any embassy personnel,” McClellan said. “The U.S. Embassy greatly appreciates the quick and professional response by Iraqi security forces.”
Movement aboard vehicles can be difficult and slow in Baghdad these days, owing to lots of checkpoints and increased questions over visas, permits and paperwork.
Special correspondent Aziz Alwan contributed to this report