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Crews Search for Airmen From Downed F-15

Crews Search for Airmen From Downed F-15

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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- Coalition rescue teams were searching early Wednesday for two U.S. airmen from a F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet that went down over Iraq two days earlier.

A U.S. military source said the plane went down near the city of Tikrit, the hometown of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The town is believed to be a stronghold of Iraqi resistance.

It was unclear whether the plane was shot down, the U.S. Central Command said.

The fighter vanished early Monday, but its loss was not announced until later for security reasons, said Marine Maj. Brad Bartelt, a Central Command spokesman.

"You want to protect the lives of any survivors on the ground," Bartelt said. "As soon as you send that information out, what you can do potentially is tip off an adversary or an enemy as to where or what happened."

Central Command said the airmen and their aircraft were deployed from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

"The coalition expects Iraqi forces and Iraqi citizens to abide by all Geneva Conventions relating to the treatment of prisoners," the command said in a statement.

A coalition A-10 "Warthog" warplane was shot down near Baghdad early Tuesday in the first reported downing of a coalition aircraft by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.

Its pilot ejected safely and was recovered by coalition ground forces near the airport, U.S. Central Command said. The pilot was reported to be in good condition.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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