Monday, Nov 03, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
This is the highest number of troops the U.S. has lost in a single day in Iraq since April. Another American soldier died in a separate incident in Baghdad later today.
The Chinook helicopter was brought down near the village of Hasi, 10 km south of Fallujah, the centre of the anti-U.S. guerilla campaign.
Eyewitnesses said they saw a couple of surface-to-air missiles fired at two U.S. helicopters that were apparently ferrying 50 soldiers heading on leave. One of the helicopters took a hit, caught fire and crashed on the corn-fields. The other hovered in the air for some time before landing near the downed chopper. Soon afterwards, six smaller U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, apparently providing surveillance back-up, dotted the sky, while dozens of U.S. soldiers swarmed around the wreckage to carry out evacuation, which continued for nearly two hours. Local residents later carried away charred pieces of the wreckage.
American military helicopters had been targeted twice earlier since the May 1 announcement of the U.S. President, George W. Bush, that the major combat in Iraq had ended. A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter crash-landed on October 25 in Tikrit after being hit by ground fire, while on June 12, a U.S. Army attack helicopter was downed in the western desert.
Today's incident followed the appearance of leaflets earlier this week calling for three days of Iraqi resistance beginning on Saturday and marking six months of the end of the war in Iraq. On Friday, the U.S. issued warnings apprehending major guerilla attacks around this period, and the United Nations transferred its last remaining staff in Baghdad to Cyprus.
In other major attacks, U.S. forces locked horns with restive residents in the Abu Ghraib area, on the western end of Baghdad.
An agency report, quoting local people said that four American soldiers were killed in this incident, the second such engagement in three days. In Fallujah, a U.S. military vehicle was set ablaze early this morning.
Television pictures showed jubilant crowds gathering in the town, with the U.S. military vehicle that was set aflame visible in the background. Residents reported four U.S. fatalities, but there was no confirmation from the U.S. military command.
The spurt in guerilla resistance began last Sunday when the Al Rashid hotel in Baghdad, the centre of U.S. occupation, in which the visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, was staying, was attacked with rockets.
This was followed the next day with the suicide raids on the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and at least three police stations, leading to an estimated 40 deaths and injuries to another 200 people.
Besides, the Iraqi resistance, for the first time targeted a train ferrying supplies to the U.S. military earlier in the week. According to the U.S. military command, attacks on U.S. forces had spiralled to an unprecedented average of 33 a day in the previous week.
Blast rips pipeline
AFP reports from Tikrit:
An explosion tore apart an oil pipeline near Kirkuk, an official said.
The blast ripped through the pipeline in the region of Mashruh al-Therthar, southwest of the city of Samara.
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