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Six Die in U.S. Helicopter Crash

Six Die in U.S. Helicopter Crash

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TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- An Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed Friday into a riverbank near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, killing six U.S. soldiers, the military said. It probably was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, an officer said.

Two Americans also were killed in separate attacks Thursday and Friday in the northern city of Mosul, raising concerns that the insurgency was spreading north.

It was not immediately clear whether the chopper was brought down by hostile fire or a mechanical failure, a spokeswoman said. But an officer who asked not to be identified said it was probably hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"Six soldiers were on board and all of them were killed," said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division based in Tikrit. They were all from the 101st Airborne Division, she said.

White smoke could be seen rising from the crash site on the east bank of the Tigris River as three other helicopters circled overhead. More helicopters could be seen hours later flying over a hilltop village on the west bank of the river.

Separately, guerrillas attacked a convoy in the eastern part of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire Friday morning. The military said one U.S. soldier died and six others were wounded in the clash.

Three others were injured later in the day when a roadside bomb exploded near the Mosul Hotel, which is now used as a military barracks, the military said. A military statement released Friday said a soldier died the day before near Mosul when a homemade bomb exploded.

The latest confirmed U.S. military fatalities bring to at least 31 the number of American troops killed action in the first week of November. Two American civilian contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Polish officer also died in attacks over the past seven days.

The U.S. military said that the number of daily attacks on coalition forces dropped to 29 last week from a spike of 37 the week before.

The spate of attacks in the past week in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, has raised concerns among U.S. military commanders that the insurgency is spreading into that region from its main stronghold in the so-called Sunni Triangle, to the west and north of Baghdad.

The city is close to the semiautonomous Kurdish areas that lie between it and the Turkish border.

In Baghdad, about 500 people marched Friday toward coalition headquarters to protest the arrest of 36 clerics in the past couple of months.

They chanted Islamic slogans including "America's army will be wiped out," and "America is the enemy of God." They also carried a large banner reading "Prisons ... will never terrify us."

Near Karbala, 70 miles south of Baghdad, the Polish brigade serving as part of the U.S.-led coalition held a memorial service for Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk who was killed in an ambush Thursday.

It was the first combat death for Poland, which has 2,400 soldiers in Iraq and is in charge of a large swath of south-central Iraq where about 9,500 soldiers of several nations help maintain security.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced that one of the soldiers wounded in Sunday's downing of an Army Chinook helicopter died Thursday at a medical facility in Germany, raising the death toll to 16. Twenty-six others were injured.

In al-Assad, a desert base 155 miles northwest of Baghdad, hundreds of soldiers, some wearing ceremonial spurs and black regimental hats, assembled late Thursday to remember their comrades killed in the shootdown, the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces since the Iraq war began March 20.

Army officials said the helicopter's crew apparently had a last-second warning of an approaching missile and managed to launch flares designed to draw the heat-seeking missile away. The defensive measure did not work and the missile slammed into the right side of the helicopter's rear engine, destroying it and triggering a fire.

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

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