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  U.S. 'Copters Fired on Over Pakistan

By Pauline Jelinek
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001; 10:18 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– Two U.S. helicopters came under fire in Pakistan as their crews attempted to retrieve the wreckage of another helicopter that had crashed during a covert weekend commando raid, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The retrieval crews returned fire and left the area in Monday's incident, leaving behind the Black Hawk helicopter it was trying to pick up, said Lt. Col. George Rhynedance, a Pentagon spokesman.

He said the small-arms fire was believed to have come from a small radical group that he did not further identify.

The incident comes amid continuing demonstrations by Islamic militants in Pakistan who want to expel Americans supporting the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. The U.S. aim is to root out terrorist networks associated with Osama bin Laden, top suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

Near one Pakistani base being used by U.S. personnel, police Tuesday erected blockades and sandbag bunkers against mass demonstrations after militants vowed to storm the facility. More than 100 people had been arrested by midmorning after a protest at Jacobabad, site of Shahbaz Air Base.

Rhynedance declined to say where Monday's shooting incident occurred but said it was brief "and what we are considering harassing fire."

He said the United States was asking through diplomatic channels that Pakistan look into it.

"Pakistan has been giving us outstanding support within the limits of what it has agreed to do" in support of the anti-terrorism campaign Rhynedance said. Pakistan is helping with intelligence and allowing use of its airspace and some fields, but has said it will not allow attacks from its territory into Afghanistan.

The Black Hawk that was being retrieved had crashed, killing two Rangers Friday, the same night that more than 100 special forces raided an airfield and a Taliban compound in southern Afghanistan. Officials have said the Black Hawk was at the ready to swoop into Afghanistan to rescue any special forces that might get into trouble.

Members of the retrieval crews were taking the wreckage in a sling under another helicopter and stopped for a scheduled refueling on their way back to their base, which Rhynedance also declined to identify. In order to land for the refueling, they had set the wreckage down and left it there for later pickup when the shooting started, Rhynedance said.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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