Monday, Nov 17, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
One soldier was missing, the U.S. military command said, without giving an explanation for the cause of the crashes, which took place near the northern city of Mosul. Eyewitnesses, however, said that one of the helicopters was hit by a ground-to-air missile and this chopper fell on the other helicopter of the formation, resulting in the twin crash. The rotor blades of the two helicopters had apparently collided after the chopper that was struck by the missile swerved away from its flight path. The helicopters were reportedly on a mission to engage Iraqi fighters, who had ambushed a U.S. foot patrol.
According to the U.S. military, one of the helicopters was carrying a quick reaction team while the other was transporting troops to northern Iraq. Resistance fighters have brought down five helicopters since late October, killing 16 U.S. soldiers. Six U.S. troops died when Iraqi ground fire brought down a Black Hawk helicopter on November 7. The apparent attack by the Iraqi resistance on Saturdaycomes in the wake of Operation Iron Hammer, the U.S. ground-and-air offensive which was launched after the downing of a helicopter near Tikrit nine days ago.
Stung by the spiralling attacks, the U.S. military had deployed its Apache attack helicopters, AC-130 gun ships and155-mm Howitzers at suspected resistance strongholds.
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