Two U.S. F-18s Crash in Iraq

By Caryle Murphy and Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 3, 2005; 7:57 AM

BAGHDAD, May 3 -- Searchers located the body of a Marine pilot Tuesday morning, hours after two F-18 Hornet jets apparently crashed during an operation over Iraq, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Searchers continue to look for the pilot of the second plane.

Both were flying off the carrier USS Vinson in an unspecified operation when they disappeared from radar and radio about 10:10 p.m. local time (2:10 p.m. EDT).

A spokesman said there was no indication of hostile fire. The planes were said to be flying at high altitude, too high to be shot down.

The military could not confirm reports of a midair collision.

From the Persian Gulf, aircraft from the nuclear-powered Vinson provide close air support and reconnaissance for U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Some of the planes carry a two-person crew while others carry one. It was unclear Tuesday whether the downed planes carried any crew in addition to the pilots.

Separately, at least 14 civilians were killed when U.S. forces and Iraqi National Guardsmen battled insurgents in the city of Ramadi on Tuesday, a hospital official in the guerrilla stronghold told the Reuters news agency.

And U.S. forces killed 12 suspected insurgents in a firefight and bombing on Monday in the city of Qaim, a trouble spot near the Syrian border.

The military said six American soldiers were wounded in the fight near the border against suspected members of al Qaeda's wing in Iraq, which is headed by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Barbash reported from Washington.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company