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Sun, Oct 26, 2003

Black Hawk Down Near Tikrit

Shot Down By Ground fire

"A helicopter did go down," Capt. Jefferson Wolfe, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said. "We can confirm it. It was a Black Hawk. We are investigating." The shoot-down, apparently by rocket-propelled grenade, is shockingly reminiscent of the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" episode in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Military officials in Baghdad say there were five people on board the UH-60 when it was shot down. All five were safely rescued. The attack Saturday raises a lot of questions among military types about the increasing frequency and sophistication of guerrilla resistance in Iraq.

It was the latest in a series of helicopter-related incidents to hit American forces in Iraq, since the country was invaded back in March. June 12th, an Army Apache gunship was downed by ground fire in western Iraq. Both crew members on board were rescued. In May, two separate helicopter accidents killed eight service members. Among them was one Marine who died trying to rescue his comrades.

In Saturday's incident, two Army helicopters were flying in formation near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Something reportedly streaked up from the ground -- witnesses say it was an RPG -- and hit one of the aircraft. The stricken helicopter spun out of control and spiraled into the ground.

THe second helicopter continued to circle above the wreckage, which began to burn and was eventually engulfed in flames as a plume of black smoke rose into the sky. As witnesses said the crash site took even more RPG fire, one person from the downed chopper was seen being carried away from the wreckage on a stretcher. The other four were reported to have been hurt, but safe.

FMI: www.army.mil

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