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U.S. Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq

U.S. Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq

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FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- An Army Apache attack helicopter was shot down Tuesday, the third downed in less than two weeks, though the crew escaped unharmed. In Baghdad, U.S. troops reacting after a deadly roadside bomb shot at a car, killing its Iraqi driver and a 10-year-old boy, relatives said.

In the volatile town of Fallujah, north of the capital, hundreds of Iraqis protested in the streets, shouting "Bush, you coward!" after U.S. troops detained a young woman while searching for a Saddam Hussein loyalist. The woman, who relatives acknowledged was handled only by female soldiers, was released after several hours questioning.

The American AH-64 helicopter gunship was shot down near the town of Habbaniyah, in a western region near where a medevac helicopter was downed Tuesday, killing all nine soldiers on board. A Kiowa Warrior helicopter was shot down in the area on Jan. 2, killing the pilot.

The AH-64's two-person crew was unhurt, and the U.S. military secured the area, military spokesman Col. William Darley said. "It was apparently downed by enemy fire," he said.

Habbaniyah is 12 miles from Fallujah, in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," north and west of the capital, a region that has been the center of guerrilla attacks on American forces.

In Baghdad, the shooting took place Monday at a checkpoint -- the latest in a growing number of cases of civilians being shot by U.S. soldiers nearing the end of their tour before a massive rotation begins next month.

A roadside bomb went off near the checkpoint, hitting a U.S. Humvee and killing a soldier. Soliders in another Humvee started shooting, hitting a car carrying the civilian family, said Wijdan Abdel Wahab, aunt of the slain boy.

The boy, 10-year-old Mustafa Jamal Shaikhly, and the family driver, identified only as Haider, were killed, Abdel Wahab said. Mustafa's 30-year-old mother and another aunt were seriously wounded, she said. Also in the car were the slain boy's 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, who suffered minor cuts.

"The Americans have ruined an innocent family, children and women," Abdel Wahab said, distraught and weeping at the hospital. "They didn't even bother to look back at them after shooting them."

She said the family is fed up with the situation and wants to "leave Iraq because of the Americans and the (U.S.-installed) Governing Council."

The U.S. military did not confirm any of the civilian casualties. The soldier who died in the bomb blast was the 495th American killed in Iraq.

The military is investigating another apparent shooting of civilians by Americans -- four Iraqi civilians, including a 7-year-old boy, killed in a taxi near Tikrit on Jan. 3. Local commander Lt. Col. Steve Russell said Tuesday it was "likely" they were shot by coalition forces.

The detention of a 17-year-old woman sparked outrage in Fallujah, a stridently anti-American city. Fallujah residents, like many in the Sunni Triangle, are religiously conservative and equate a woman's dignity with family honor.

Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Fallujah on Monday night after hearing the news and continued demonstrating Tuesday, shouting "Bush, you coward!" and "Release our woman!" They dispersed without incident by noon.

Relatives said the woman, who was married six days ago, was alone at home Monday when she was taken away by U.S. troops and kept in custody for five hours before being freed unharmed.

Maher Turki, the brother of the woman's husband, said the soldiers were looking for another of his brothers in the hope he would lead them to Khamis Sarhan, the leader of Saddam Hussein's Baath party in Fallujah. Sarhan is wanted by occupation forces and has a $1 million bounty on his head.

Turki said his brother, who has fled, was acquainted with Sarhan but was not an associate. Turki said the troops were not looking for the detained woman's husband.

"The girl was alone so they took her because they know our weakness. When they take our honor they know we will come to them," Turki told The Associated Press.

He refused to identify his sister-in-law, saying she was hospitalized with her husband, recovering from the shock of custody.

"But in all honesty, she was treated well. They only had women soldiers deal with her. They did not harm her. They didn't touch one hair on her head," he said.

While anti-U.S. sentiments have been widespread in Sunni areas, the occupation authorities also face anger in southern Shiite towns over the hardships persisting nine months after Saddam's regime collapsed. Shiites are a majority in Iraq but were long suppressed by Saddam.

Clashes resumed Tuesday in Kut between protesters and Ukrainian troops, with sporadic gunfire heard at the western edge of the city, a day after the Ukrainians fired bullets in the air to control a riot by hundreds of people demanding food and jobs.

The demonstrators also hurled explosives on Monday, injuring one Ukrainian soldier and four Iraqi policemen, said Lt. Zafer Wedad, an Iraqi police official.

The violence in Kut, 90 miles southeast of Baghdad, followed a similar demonstration in another southern city, Amarah, on Sunday.

Unrest among the Shiites has grown as their spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, has spoken out against a U.S.-backed formula for transferring power to the Iraqis.

But the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said Monday the Nov. 15 pact is "the best way forward to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people."

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

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