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U.S. Military Helicopter Crashes Near Baghdad

U.S. Military Helicopter Crashes Near Baghdad

Posted - Jan. 2, 2004 at 7:13 a.m.



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A U.S. military helicopter crashed west of Baghdad on Friday, killing one soldier and wounding another, the U.S. military said. The cause was not immediately known.

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior crashed near the town of Fallujah, a flashpoint in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where U.S.-led troops have seen the fiercest resistance since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Rebels in the area have previously shot at and brought down U.S. helicopters.

After the crash, U.S. soldiers swept through Fallujah, blocking off streets and searching shops and homes as helicopters circled above. Soldiers sealed off the crash scene and would not allow reporters to approach the downed helicopter.

A witness told Associated Press Television News that he had seen the helicopter crash and burst into flames, though he could not say what the cause was.

The area has seen several attacks on helicopters in recent months. In the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces since the Iraq invasion began in March, 17 soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in mid air above Mosul in what the military said was probably a grenade attack.

Also Friday, in the north, gunbattles erupted in Kirkuk as police sought to quell armed Arabs who were attacking Kurds. Ethnic tension recently erupted over fears of Kurdish domination of the oil-rich Iraqi city.

And in the city of Mosul, the Saddam-appointed dean of political science of Mosul University was kidnapped and apparently assassinated. Adel Jabar Abid Mustafa -- also a minor Baath Party official -- was taken from his home Wednesday night and his body was found Thursday with two gunshots to his head, according to the dean's brother, Salim Abid Mustafa.

He said he did not know why his brother was killed, and police had no comment. Gunmen in Mosul have killed at least three judges appointed by Saddam's ousted regime, as well as members of a new Iraqi police force formed by the U.S.-led occupation.

An oil tanker in a U.S. convoy erupted in flames and clouds of black smoke near a U.S. military base on the road to the western town of Ramadi. Film from Associated Press Television News showed the tanker ablaze and witnesses saying it was the victim of a rebel rocket or roadside bomb attack.

Elsewhere, a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter made an emergency landing Thursday near Qarayah, about 60 miles south of Mosul, slightly injuring one person, the U.S. military said. It said the aircraft had a problem with a tail rotor.

In Kirkuk, Police Chief Gen. Turhan Youssef said one Kurd was killed and one wounded by Arabs who shot them as they were walking in an Arab neighborhood Thursday night.

Afterward, there was a shootout between Arabs and police, who killed two of the attackers and wounded several, said Jalal Jawher, local head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party

"Some armed Arabs tried to attack Kurds last night ... Then the police clashed with the armed Arabs and killed two and wounded several," he said.

Turhan said a group of Arabs shot at both Kurds and police, but that he had no information about casualties among the attackers.

Tensions in Kirkuk have been high since an attack Wednesday on Arab and Turkmen protesters demanding that Kirkuk remain under the administration of a central Iraqi government.

Police said Kurdish gunmen opened fired as the protesters tried to converge on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan office, and that two protesters were killed. The local hospital said it treated 26 wounded people.

But Jawher said armed men infiltrated the protest and fired at his party office, and that police guarding the building returned fire.

The city's 1 million-plus residents are divided in roughly equal parts among three ethnic groups -- Arab, Turkmen and Kurd.

Some Kurds have been calling for Kirkuk to join autonomous Kurdistan, a Switzerland-sized area of northern Iraq where Kurds have ruled themselves since the end of the 1991 Gulf War under U.S.-led aerial protection.

Under Saddam's rule, Iraq's Sunni Arab minority dominated the country. The Shiite majority is largely centered in the south, while Kurds dominate the north.

The Governing Council, selected by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to reflect the size of the country's diverse groups, has 13 Shiites, five Arab Sunnis, five Kurdish Sunnis, one Turkmen and one Christian.

The U.S.-led coalition plans to transfer authority to a transitional Iraqi government by July 1.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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