3 missing as U.S. copter crashes in Iraq

Aircraft was searching for soldier lost on Tigris

January 26, 2004|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two American pilots and the U.S. soldier for whom they were searching were missing yesterday after an Army helicopter crashed into the Tigris River in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

At least two Iraqi police officers and an Iraqi translator were believed to have been killed in the deadly sequence of events yesterday in Mosul, 240 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The incident began about 5:15 p.m., when a boat on patrol capsized in the river. Aboard were four American soldiers, two Iraqi police officers and a translator, the Army said.

The police officers and the translator were killed, but three of the soldiers survived, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter attached to the 101st Airborne Division was dispatched to search for the fourth soldier. The military did not say what caused the crash, but witnesses reported seeing the helicopter hit power lines and fall into the river about 6:45 p.m.

"It's too early for us to speculate on what caused the helicopter to go down," said Capt. Dave Malakoff. "Obviously, there is an investigation under way."

A third Iraqi police officer was killed in a drive-by shooting while assisting the rescue effort.

"One Iraqi policeman was hit in the head and killed instantly," camera operator Alaadin Saad told the Reuters news agency.

Also yesterday, U.S. forces detained nearly 50 people in raids and seized weapons, one day after bombing attacks flared in the Sunni Triangle, the heartland of the insurgency against the U.S.-led occupation.

Even though attacks have declined substantially since the arrest last month of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, they continue to pose a deadly threat to American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

Four Iraqi civilians and five U.S. soldiers died in three separate attacks Saturday near an Army checkpoint in Khaldiyah, the city hall in Samarra and on a road north of Fallujah.

A sixth U.S. soldier died yesterday from injuries sustained the day before when a rocket-propelled grenade pierced the driver's compartment of a Bradley fighting vehicle patrolling the town of Beiji. The critically wounded soldier was evacuated to a military hospital in Baghdad, where he died.

The soldier was the 513th U.S. service member to die in Iraq since the United States and its allies launched the war March 20. Most of the deaths have occurred in the insurgency by Hussein loyalists since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1.

During yesterday's raids in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, 46 people were detained, including three men "suspected of anti-coalition activities," Aberle said. Also seized were 58 AK-47s, two rifles and ammunition magazines.

Also yesterday, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said there was evidence of possible ties between al-Qaida and former regime loyalists mounting the insurgency campaign.

"What you see is a lot of fingerprints in terms of the tactics and techniques and procedures that are being employed. We are working very hard to establish whether there are today positive links," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told the Reuters news agency. "We believe that those links may be growing."

Yesterday, David Kay, the former top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said he believes that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion. Kay said the challenge now is to figure out why intelligence indicated that Iraq had them.

"We led this search to find the truth, not to find the weapons," Kay said on the National Public Radio program Weekend Edition. "The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist, we've got to deal with that difference and understand why."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Killed in Iraq

Latest deaths:

A 4th Infantry Division soldier died yesterday of wounds from a rocket-propelled grenade attack Saturday in Beiji.

Latest identifications:

Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael T. Blaise, 29, Macon, Mo.; killed Friday when his helicopter crashed near Mosul; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Aviation Brigade, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Brian D. Hazelgrove, 29, Fort Rucker, Ala.; killed Friday when his helicopter crashed near Mosul; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, Bismarck, N.D., killed Saturday when the convoy he was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb north of Fallujah; assigned to North Dakota Army National Guard, 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, Bismarck, N.D.

Army National Guard Sgt. Keith Smette, 25, Makoti, N.D.; killed Saturday when the convoy he was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb north of Fallujah; assigned to North Dakota Army National Guard, 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, Bismarck, N.D.

- Associated Press

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