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Mon, Jan 22, 2007

Pentagon: Black Hawk Likely Brought Down By Hostile Fire

US Officials Says 12 Were Onboard Downed Helo

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 01.22.07 0930 EST: Pentagon officials are revising earlier statements about what may have brought down an Army Black Hawk helicopter Saturday northeast of Baghdad. According to CNN, the military is now "leaning" toward the conclusion the chopper was downed by a shoulder-fired missile.

Called Man Portable Air Defense Systems -- or MANPADS -- these weapons are easy to deploy, stone-simple to operate with little training and very difficult to defend against for aircraft operating low to the ground. Worse, their small size makes them easy to transport covertly -- a fact that's led to their proliferation on the world's weapons markets.

A report on Globalsecurity.org suggests the Afghan mujahedeen used 340 such missiles to shoot down 269 Soviet aircraft during the conflict between the two countries. Additionally, it says there is strong evidence to suggest IR missiles produced 56% of the kills and 79% of the Allied aircraft damaged during Operation Desert Storm.

ANN will report more details on this developing story as they become available.

Original Reports

01.21.07 1150 EST: The US military confirmed Sunday that 12 soldiers were aboard the Black Hawk helicopter that went down northeast of Baghdad on Saturday, not 13 as had been reported earlier.

"Twelve American soldiers, which included eight passengers and four crew members, were aboard the aircraft and all were killed," the military posted in an updated statement Sunday.

Officials also confirmed the helicopter came down near the Diyala province -- a region that has seen intense fighting between US and Iraqi joint forces, and Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shia Muslim militias.

US spokesman Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle said the cause of the crash had not been determined.

Navy Capt. Frank Pascual, a member of a US media relations team in the United Arab Emirates, told Al-Arabiya television that the helicopter might have had technical troubles before going down, according to the Associated Press.

The New York Times reports an Interior Ministry official and the police in Diyala province said Saturday the helicopter was shot down by insurgents who fired missiles, or possibly grenades, from at least two locations -- though there has been no confirmation from American officials.

01.20.07 1755 EST: Aero-News has received reports stating the helicopter that crashed earlier today near Baghdad, killing the 13 servicemembers onboard, was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter (type shown below).

US Military spokesman Capt. Frank Pascual added officials believe an unspecified technical issue brought the helicopter down, although that report has not been confirmed by CENTCOM.

Several media outlets noted in their reports earlier comments by US officials on the accident did not include any statements denying it was shot down... as is usually the case. Additionally, the BBC reports a website linked to the former ruling Baath party in Iraq claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, although that has not been confirmed.

The helicopter came down near the Diyala province, where US and Iraqi forces have battled both Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shia Muslim militias for months. 

Concrete information on this incident remains difficult to come by.

01.20.07 1310 EST: A US military helicopter, type unknown, crashed northeast of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Saturday, with reports from the scene stating the 13 people onboard were killed.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding the downing at this time, including the question whether enemy fire may have been involved. A statement from CENTCOM to ANN said Emergency Coalition Forces responded and secured the crash site shortly after the helo went down.

The crash comes over a month after a Marine CH-46 crashed during an emergency water landing in western Anbar province, killing four servicemembers onboard.

ANN will continue to follow this developing story.

FMI: www.centcom.mil

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