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http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20031102/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_helicopter&cid=540&ncid=716 13 GIs Killed As Chopper Downed in Iraq By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer FALLUJAH, Iraq - A U.S. Chinook helicopter believed carrying soldiers en route home for leave was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 13 soldiers and wounding more than 20 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported. It was the deadliest day for American troops in the six-month-old occupation of Iraq (news - web sites). The heavy transport helicopter was the biggest U.S. target yet shot from the skies by Iraq's insurgents, in a resistance campaign that has escalated in recent days. At least one other American soldier was confirmed killed Sunday in ground attacks here and elsewhere in central Iraq. Witnesses described several other U.S. deaths. "Currently there are 13 killed in action and more than 20 wounded," the Baghdad command said in a statement on the Chinook shootdown. It said a search was under way at the site for possible other survivors. Witnesses said they saw two missiles fired at the helicopter, which came down amid cornfields near the village of Hasi, about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad and just south of Fallujah, a center of Sunni Muslim resistance to the U.S. occupation. The command said the helicopter was struck at about 9 a.m. "The Chinook was shot down by an unknown weapon," a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity. Insurgents have fired on U.S. aircraft before, downing two helicopters, and American military officials have repeatedly warned that hundreds of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles remain unaccounted for in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime in April. The helicopter was part of a formation of two Chinooks carrying a total of more than 50 passengers to the U.S. base at the former Saddam International Airport, renamed Baghdad International Airport, which the military calls BIA. "Our initial report is that they were being transported to BIA for R&R flights," that is, rest and recreation leaves abroad, a U.S. command spokeswoman in Baghdad said. She said at least some were coming from Camp Ridgway, believed to be an 82nd Airborne Division base in western Iraq. Someone fired two missiles from the area of a date palm grove about 500 yards from where the stricken copter came down, said villager Thaer Ali, 21. Yassin Mohamed, another witness, said he ran out of his house, a half-mile away, when he heard an explosion. "I saw the Chinook burning. I ran toward it because I wanted to help put out the fire, but couldn't get near because of American soldiers." Witnesses said the second copter hovered over the downed craft for some minutes and then set down, apparently to try to help extinguish a fire, but the downed copter was destroyed. At least a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters later hovered over the area, and dozens of soldiers swarmed over the site. Injured were still being evacuated at least two hours later. Local villagers displayed blackened pieces of wreckage to arriving reporters. One Iraqi in Fallujah, who wouldn't give his name, "This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy aggressors," said one Iraqi in nearby Fallujah, who wouldn't give his name. "They'll never be safe until they get out of our country," he said of the Americans. Others were celebrating word of the helicopter downing and also a fresh attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah itself, where witnesses said an explosion struck one vehicle in a U.S. Army convoy at about 9 a.m. Sunday. They claimed four soldiers died, but U.S. military sources said they couldn't confirm the report. One Iraqi in Fallujah, who would not give his name, said the shootdown was a "lesson" for the Americans. In a separate incident, the U.S. command said a soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed just after midnight in an explosion in Baghdad. In Abu Ghraib, local Iraqis said U.S. troops arrived Sunday morning and ordered people to disperse from the marketplace and remove what the Iraqis said were religious posters from walls. Someone then tossed a grenade at the Americans, witnesses said, and the soldiers opened fire. The U.S. command said it had no immediate information, but Iraqi witnesses said they believed three or four Americans were killed and six to seven Iraqis were wounded. The presence of the portable anti-aircraft missiles has represented a significant threat for military aircraft and raised concerns over the security of the few commercial flights in and out of Baghdad International Airport. The U.S.-led coalition has offered rewards of $500 apiece to Iraqis who turn them in. It was the third helicopter known to have been brought down by Iraq's insurgents since President Bush (news - web sites) declared an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1. A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crash-landed Oct. 25 in Tikrit after being hit by an unknown weapon, injuring one crewmember. On June 12, a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter was shot down by hostile fire in the western desert, and two crewmembers were rescued unhurt. The Pentagon (news - web sites) had announced Friday it was expanding the home leave program for troops in Iraq, to fly more soldiers out of the region each day and take them to more U.S. airports. As of Sunday, it said, the number of soldiers departing daily via a transit facility in neighboring Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280. The workhorse, 10-ton Chinook, which has a crew of four, is the military's most versatile heavy-lift helicopter, used primarily for troop movements, transporting artillery and similar functions. The shootdown of the Chinook came after what U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer on Saturday called "a tough week" in Iraq, beginning with an insurgent rocket attack on Sunday against a Baghdad hotel housing hundreds of his Coalition Provisional Authority staff members. One was killed and 15 wounded in that attack. A day later, four coordinated suicide bombings in Baghdad killed three dozen people and wounded more than 200, and that was followed by widespread rumors and leaflets threatening an escalation in the anti-U.S. resistance. Attacks against U.S. forces had already stepped up in the previous week, to an average of 33 a day. __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Exclusive Video Premiere - Britney Spears http://launch.yahoo.com/promos/britneyspears/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk