Two Black Hawks collide and crash in Iraq

Sunday, November 16, 2003

MOSUL, Iraq -- Two Black Hawk helicopters collided and crashed Saturday night, killing 17 American soldiers in the U.S. military's worst single loss of life since the Iraq war began.

Five soldiers were injured and one was missing, the military said, bringing the U.S. death toll in Iraq past the 400 mark. One helicopter smashed into the roof of a house, witnesses said, and there were reports one of the aircraft was shot down.

The two Black Hawks, which belonged to the 101st Airborne Division, went down in the Borsa residential neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

A statement by the U.S. command said one helicopter was carrying a quick reaction force and the other ferried soldiers on a transport mission in northern Iraq.

The statement did not give the cause of the crash, although some soldiers at the scene said at least one of the Black Hawks may have been hit by ground fire.

"The cause of the incidents are under investigation," the statement said. "We will not speculate on the cause of these crashes."

Before the crash, the U.S. military's deadliest incident was the downing of a Chinook transport helicopter on Nov. 2 that killed 16 soldiers. A Black Hawk was also shot down on Nov. 7, killing all six soldiers on board.

There were days early in the war in which more soldiers died, but they were spread over several attacks or accidents.

Earlier in the day, a 1st Armored Division soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. The crash put the number of American casualties since the March invasion at 417.

The crash occurred about 6:30 p.m. after sundown, but both pilots were qualified for limited visibility flying, the military said.

The statement said the site was secured by U.S. troops, Iraqi police and firefighters. The aircraft came from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.

One soldier at the scene told The Associated Press he heard that one of the helicopters was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade before it crashed. A U.S. military spokesman said such reports were "at best speculative."

One witness, Nafe Younis, said he was sitting on the roof of his house when he saw the rotor blades of the two helicopters hit each other.

One of the helicopters then "hit into the house and a few minutes later it went ablaze," said Younis, who lives across the street from where one of the helicopters crashed.

In other developments Saturday:

  • The number of Italian military personnel killed in Wednesday's suicide attack in the southern city of Nasiriyah reached 19 Saturday when a severely wounded soldier was pronounced dead in Kuwait. Two of the dead were Italian civilians.

  • Gunmen killed a translator working for Mosul's municipal administration together with his son.

  • A Portuguese journalist abducted by gunmen in southern Iraq was released Saturday. Carlos Raleiras, a journalist with Lisbon-based radio TSF, said he was set free at a roadside about 36 hours after being abducted near Basra. He told TSF he was not harmed.


    Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi contributed to this report from Baghdad.

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