Helicopter Crash Kills 7 Troops In Iraq

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Iraq
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 19, 2008

BAGHDAD, Sept. 18 -- Seven American soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed early Thursday in the desert of southern Iraq, the U.S. military said. Officials said the crash was not caused by enemy fire.

The military also announced that a U.S. soldier is being held in the shooting deaths of two fellow Americans on Sunday at their patrol base south of Baghdad.

The military did not identify the soldier in custody but identified the two who were killed as Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley R. Durban, 26, of Hurst, Tex.

The men were "victims of an early morning shooting incident" at their base, near the town of Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of the capital, the military said. They were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Citing an ongoing investigation, a military spokeswoman, Sgt. Stephanie Boyd, declined to provide details of the circumstances surrounding the killings or say whether the shootings were deliberate, accidental or due to other factors.

The aircraft that crashed, a CH-47 Chinook, was part of a four-helicopter convoy flying from Kuwait to the northern city of Balad. It went down shortly after midnight 60 miles west of the port city of Basra in an area controlled by Iraqi and British troops. The Chinook is typically used to transport troops and supplies.

"The cause of the accident is unknown, and an investigation is underway. However, enemy activity is not suspected," Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

It was the deadliest U.S. helicopter accident in Iraq since Aug. 22, 2007, when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the northern part of the country, killing 14 U.S. soldiers.

Also Thursday, Col. Salem al-Shammery, an official at the human rights office of the Ministry of Interior, was killed when attackers fired on his vehicle, police said.

In separate incidents Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers died in Baghdad from causes unrelated to combat, the military said in a statement.

Special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim and other Washington Post staff contributed to this report.


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