Helicopter crash, attacks kill 21

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 11:40 p.m.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A helicopter crash killed 13 U.S. troops Saturday, and eight other American deaths were reported in separate attacks Friday and Saturday, bringing a sharp spike in casualties as the first troops in an increase ordered by President Bush began to arrive.

The cause of the helicopter crash was not disclosed by late Saturday, though hostile action was not ruled out. A military announcement stated only that all 13 passengers and crew died when their helicopter went down northeast of the capital.

Late Saturday, the military announced that five U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded when insurgents attacked a meeting of American and Iraqi soldiers at a command center in Karbala, a southern Shiite city that has been considered one of the less violent areas of Iraq.

The military said the troops died trying to repel the attack, which consisted of grenades, rifle fire and indirect fire, usually meaning rockets or mortars.

In addition, the military reported that a soldier in Baghdad had been killed Saturday by a roadside bomb. On Friday, a Marine was killed in western Anbar province by what was listed only as enemy action, and a soldier near the northern city of Mosul died from a roadside bomb.

The 21 newly reported U.S. military deaths brought the total to at least 45 in January, which had seen troop fatalities at a much lower rate than the 115 who died in December. At least 3,048 service members have died since the war began.

The spike in casualties comes just as a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division has arrived in Baghdad, the first of a surge of 21,500 troops intended to stem the spiraling sectarian violence in the capital and to wrest control of Anbar province from insurgents active there. Bush's plan to send the extra troops faces intense opposition from Congress and the public.

U.S. forces sealed off the area near the helicopter crash, according to the military statement.

Reuters news service reported that a Blackhawk helicopter had gone down in the restive Diyala province, and that residents claimed to have seen it in flames in the air.

Blackhawks are the helicopters most commonly used for transporting troops and equipment. They carry crews of four, which are lightly armed with two mounted machine guns and pistols, and can seat about 10 passengers.

There have been at least 12 deadly helicopter crashes since the start of the war, according to the Associated Press, with just under half known to be caused by enemy fire. In the deadliest crash, 30 Marines and a U.S. sailor died in a sandstorm Jan. 26, 2005. A transport helicopter was shot down Nov. 2, 2003, killing 16.

Other attacks were reported around the country Saturday, but the casualty count was low compared to recent violence. Reuters reported that Baghdad police had found 29 bodies of people who were shot with signs of torture.

Wire services also reported that U.S. forces used helicopters to drop Iraqi forces into an attack that killed 15 Sunni insurgents in southern Baghdad. The targets were members of the Omar Brigades, a Sunni group with links to al-Qaeda that is known for kidnapping and killing Shiites.

There were mortar strikes in the Shiite city of Karbala and in Baghdad, with few casualties.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top