U.S. Copter Crash in Iraq Kills 2 In Fourth Such Incident This Year

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 3, 2007

BAGHDAD, Feb. 2 -- A U.S. military helicopter crashed Friday morning north of Baghdad, killing two soldiers on board, officials said. It was the fourth fatal helicopter crash in Iraq this year.

The helicopter went down at 7:20 a.m. near Taji, about 15 minutes north of the capital. The military said in a brief statement that the soldiers' remains "have been recovered and the site secured."

Military officials did not say what type of helicopter it was or how it crashed. But Iraqi police and an insurgent group that asserted responsibility for the crash identified the craft as an Apache and said it had been shot down by a shoulder-fired antiaircraft missile.

"We are saying to the enemies of God that the airspace of the Islamic state of Iraq is prohibited for you, just like its land," the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group, said in a statement posted on its Web site. "God opened for the soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq new ways to confront your aircrafts."

Before Friday's incident, 19 people had died in U.S. helicopter crashes in the past two weeks. A Black Hawk crashed north of Baghdad on Jan. 20, killing 12 soldiers on board. The following week, a civilian helicopter was downed in central Baghdad while assisting a U.S. Embassy convoy that had come under attack. Five security contractors employed by Blackwater USA were killed in that incident.

On Sunday, a military helicopter crashed while participating in an Iraqi-led raid on an insurgent camp in the southern province of Najaf, killing two soldiers. An Iraqi official involved in the raid said that helicopter had also been shot down.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the string of crashes Friday during a briefing at the Pentagon.

"Clearly, groundfire . . . has been more effective against our helicopters in the last couple of weeks," he said, according to a transcript of the briefing posted on the Department of Defense's Web site. "I've taken a hard look at that. Don't know whether or not this is just statistically what's going to happen over time when you're flying at that level and people are shooting at you, or if there are some kind of new tactics and techniques that we need to adjust to. And the folks on the ground are looking at that right now."

Also Friday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of six other service members.

A Marine and a sailor died Wednesday in Anbar province in western Iraq of wounds "sustained due to enemy action," the military said in a statement. Another Marine died Wednesday after apparently going into cardiac arrest, the military said.

A Task Force Lightning soldier was killed Thursday in a vehicle rollover accident, the military said in a statement. Two other American soldiers were killed Thursday in a car accident at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, it said in a separate statement.

The names of the soldiers will be released after their relatives have been notified, the military said.

Elsewhere, 13 people were killed Friday by mortar rounds that struck a village 20 miles south of Baghdad, according to a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

Mortar fire also killed five people and wounded 18 at the Musa al-Kadhim shrine in the Kadhimiyah district of northern Baghdad, the spokesman said.

In Suwayrah, in southern Iraq, Iraqi army officials killed 35 people and captured 23 suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization, the spokesman said.

Special correspondents Muhanned Saif Aldin and Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.

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