U.S. jet crashes in Iraq insurgent stronghold

November 28, 2006|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An Air Force jet crashed yesterday in a Sunni-insurgent stronghold west of the capital, the U.S. military said.

Al-Jazeera television showed footage of the tangled wreckage of an F-16CG bearing an Air Combat Command seal and of a body it identified as the pilot. But the U.S. military said it could not confirm the pilot's fate or the cause of the crash in Anbar province.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani flew to Iran to seek help quelling bloodshed after bombs and mortars killed more than 200 people in a Shiite slum of Baghdad last week in the worst sectarian violence since the war began.

Thursday's bombings in Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, triggered waves of reprisal killings despite the imposition of a curfew.

Police recovered yesterday the bodies of 44 Iraqis who were shot execution-style and dumped in Baghdad and south of the capital, apparent victims of death squads. At least 20 others were killed in gun and mortar fire around the country yesterday, among them six Shiite workers seized by Sunni gunmen in the Shourja market and later executed, police said.

A U.S. helicopter crash-landed near Youssifiya, south of the capital, the military said. No injuries were reported. Officials said there was no indication of enemy fire.

Talabani, who was forced to delay his trip when Baghdad's airport closed during the curfew, landed in Tehran and headed to a meeting with his counterpart, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to his office.

Syria did not respond to an invitation to attend the meeting, which comes ahead of a summit between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan tomorrow.

The White House expects al-Maliki to express "strong views" at the meeting about his intention to deal directly with leaders in Iran and Syria, which U.S. and Iraqi officials accuse of arming Iraq's militants.

"Their view is that the future of Iraq, if it is a subject of conversation with Syria and Iran, ought to be a conversation by Iraqis, not by others on the outside," Bush's national security adviser, Steven J. Hadley, told reporters yesterday aboard Air Force One.

A bipartisan commission headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Sen. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana is expected to recommend that the United States engage with Iran and Syria as it seeks new strategies in Iraq.

Britain, meanwhile, indicated that it plans a significant troop drawdown in Iraq. Defense Secretary Des Browne said thousands of British troops would leave by the end of next year. Italy and Poland said they would be withdrawing their remaining troops.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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