Black Hawk crash kills 12 in Iraq


A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter takes off at Rinas Airport in Tirana, Albania, in this May 3, 1999 file photo. A Black Hawk helicopter believed to be carrying 12 people has crashed in northern Iraq, and all aboard were killed, the U.S. military said Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006.

AP Photo
Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 10:03 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. helicopter with 12 passengers and crew members crashed in northern Iraq, killing all on board, the military command said Sunday. In addition, five Marines were reported killed in action, bringing to as many as 28 the number of American troops slain in Iraq since Thursday.
The crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk military chopper late Saturday was the deadliest in Iraq since a Chinook transport helicopter went down last January near the Jordanian border, killing 30 Marines and a sailor.
A spokesman for U.S.-led forces would not confirm the nationality or the identity of those killed in the Black Hawk pending notification of next of kin. "At this time we believe all the victims were U.S. citizens," a spokesman said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, and it was not immediately known whether the aircraft came under fire from insurgents. A military spokesman noted, however, that the Black Hawk went down amid high winds and heavy rainfall.
There have been nearly two dozen fatal helicopter crashes in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003, killing at least 144 people, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Some of the wrecks have been accidents, and others have been the result of hostile fire.
The Black Hawk helicopter was one of two on night operations Saturday and had lost radio contact with the other aircraft before crashing in a sparsely populated area about eight miles east of Tal Afar, a city near Mosul.
The military often flies missions at night, including the transport of troops via helicopter. But aviation experts say darkness can complicate making an emergency landing, difficult in a chopper under the best of circumstances.
"Helicopters are fairly unstable vehicles that need constant pilot attention," said Peter Field, a Vietnam-era Marine colonel and former director of the Navy's test pilot school in Patuxent River, Md. "Flying over the vacant desert at night would pose a little bit more of a task for the pilot."
Field, now serving as a St. Louis-based civil aviation consultant, says investigators can ascertain fairly quickly whether a crash was caused by mechanical error or hostile fire once they reach the fuselage.
"If the aircraft were hit by surface-to-air missile or rocket-propelled grenade, you'd be able to tell," he said. "The crash site won't contain the whole vehicle. There will be parts that fell along the way."
Nearby Tal Afar has long been a site of insurgent activity. In September, U.S. planes bombed several houses in Tal Afar, which one military official referred to as a "terrorist incubator," after the town's residents were urged to evacuate. Weapons caches and high-tech bomb factories were uncovered by U.S. troops.
In ground action, three of the five Marines killed during the weekend were slain by small arms fire in separate engagements with enemy gunmen Sunday in the city of Falluja. The U.S. military also reported two Marines riding in separate vehicles near Ferris and Karmah died when they were attacked by roadside bombs.
On Thursday, 11 U.S. soldiers and Marines were killed around the country amid bombings and other insurgent attacks. About 2,200 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.
In other violence, gunfights broke out Sunday between insurgents and Iraqi police in the al-Adel neighborhood of western Baghdad, leaving one officer killed and 13 wounded.
A suicide car bomb targeted the convoy of Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, killing two and injuring five. The official was unharmed.
U.S. and Iraqi leaders have attempted to quell the insurgency by drawing Sunni Arabs into the government. Adnan Dulaimi, a leader of the main Sunni Arab slate in last month's election, met Sunday with interim President Jalal Talabani and expressed willingness to bring his coalition into government "so long as no side will dominate the government."
Meanwhile, U.S.-led forces Sunday raided the Umm Qura Mosque in Baghdad, headquarters of the Muslim Scholars Association, a hard-line group of clerics the United States has accused of terrorist activities. The clerics held a news conference to denounce the action during which coalition forces broke down doors and rifled through files.
And under heavy security, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Sunday visited a pediatric hospital in Baghdad whose renovation is one of 19 such projects the U.S. government is financing in Iraq.
He said the Americans are investing in children "because they are the future of this country."

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