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Posted Friday, November 7, 2003

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Eric Mueller comments:

One More Life Doesn't Count

TODAY the major news media announced that one American who had been wounded in the downing of the Chinook helicopter in Iraq on 2 November had died in hospital in Germany on Thursday, November 6, 2003.
   This death, the story went on, brought the number of dead in that incident to sixteen.
   Sixteen? But news reports on 3 November were already listing the number of dead as 16 (up from the initially quoted figure of 15).
   I include both reports below.

Arabist Eric Mueller is this website's expert on Middle Eastern affairs.



November 3, 2003:


U.S. Seeks Clues to Deadly Copter Attack

AP Special Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Iraq - American troops hunted for anti-aircraft missiles along Iraq's trucking routes, digging through heaps of manure, mounds of hay or piles of pomegranates Monday. The U.S. Army retrieved the wreckage of a downed transport helicopter and searched for clues about who knocked it from the sky.

Attacks continued Monday -- a blast near a Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern city of Karbala that witnesses said killed at least one person, and a barrage of three mortar rounds in Baghdad that caused no reported casualties.

One clue in Sunday's helicopter shootdown may lie in Ramadi, west of the crash site, where an anti-U.S. leaflet warned, just two days before the shootdown, that Iraq's insurgents would strike the Americans with "modern and advanced methods."

The downing of the CH-47 Chinook, one of two carrying dozens of soldiers on their way to Baghdad airport and home leave, killed 16 Americans and wounded 20 others. It was the heaviest U.S. death toll in any single action since the invasion of Iraq last March 20.

One victim, Ernest Bucklew, 33, had been expected to stop at his Fort Carson, Colo., home before traveling to his mother's funeral. His wife, Barbara, wept as she spoke of breaking the news to the couple's two children, 8-year-old Joshua and 4-year-old Justin.

"My oldest one is just a little numb," she said at the Army post near Colorado Springs, Colo., shrouded in fog and a cold rain. "He understands his nana and father passed away, but he hasn't talked about it. The youngest one just doesn't understand. He doesn't understand the concept of death right now."

Sixteen of the injured were flown by U.S. Air Force C-17 transport Monday to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and treated at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Nine were admitted to the intensive care unit, including five in serious condition, said hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw.

"They are being evaluated and surgeries are planned throughout the day," she said.

Villagers who saw the helicopter downing south of Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, said it was struck from behind by one or two missiles apparently fired from a date palm grove in the area, deep in the Sunni Muslim heartland that has produced the most violent opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Hundreds of portable, shoulder-fired missiles are unaccounted for in Iraq, potential threats to a U.S. occupation army that relies heavily on the slow, low-flying CH-47 Chinook craft for troop transport. The U.S. command has offered Iraqis $500 apiece for each portable missile turned in but has refused to say how many have been surrendered.

In one search operation Monday, U.S. military police stretched out razor wire and set up checkpoints along the main artery running north from Baghdad, now dubbed "Highway 1," to look for weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.

"We have had indication that more of stuff like this (missiles) are moving out there," said Lt. Col. Dave Poirier, commander of the 720th Military Police Battalion. "People know they are taking a big chance in transporting weapons ... and for some of these large weapons systems, you'd have to have a truck to transport it."

Spc. Andrew Fifield of San Antonio, Texas, jumped on top of a truck transporting pomegranates and picked through the fruit carefully.

As he dug through dried manure atop a second truck, he motioned to Iraqi policemen to join him. None did.

"A lot of them were not police as we'd know police back home to be," Poirier said. "Some of them were never policemen before this."

The explosion in Karbala, 65 miles south of Baghdad, apparently was caused by a bomb planted in a parked car on a busy street less than 100 yards from the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, said Mohammed Abu Jaffar al-Assadi, a Shiite cleric. Other witnesses said it might have been concealed in a bag left outside a hotel.

In addition to at least one dead, it was believed 12 people were wounded, al-Assadi said. It was not immediately possible to get confirmation of the report from Iraqi police or the U.S.-led coalition.

Karbala has been rocked by deadly clashes between supporters of rival Shiite factions.

Here in the capital, U.S. occupation authorities said three mortar rounds were lobbed from a firing position somewhere in southwestern Baghdad late Monday. Two landed in unspecified locations in central Baghdad, and the third struck a camp of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. They said no injuries were immediately reported.

As a result of Sunday's shootdown, the U.S. command may have to re-evaluate the routes and flying tactics of its transport helicopters and planes over Iraq.

The SA-7 Strela portable missiles known to have been in Iraqi hands, weapons that home in on the engine heat of an aircraft, can be fired to an altitude of 14,000 feet, easily covering the usual cruising altitude of a heavily laden Chinook.

Another shoulder-fired missile in the old Iraqi army's inventory, the advanced SA-18 Iglas, is equipped with special filters to defeat flares and other countermeasures deployed by U.S. aircraft.

The apparent successful use of such a weapon in Sunday's attack is a sign of the increasing sophistication of Iraq's elusive anti-U.S. resistance, whose attacks have intensified in recent weeks.

The U.S. command in Baghdad said the 82nd Airborne Division, umbrella unit for 12th Aviation Brigade operations in Iraq, was conducting the initial investigation into the downing of the brigade's Chinook.

At the site Monday, a giant crane lifted pieces of wreckage onto a truck, as soldiers sealed off the immediate area. Villager Jamal Abed, 22, said U.S. troops came to his house Monday morning and told him, through an interpreter, that "if American forces were subjected to fire, they will open fire on every house in the area."

In other developments:

  • A neighborhood council chairman in west Baghdad, Mustafa Zaidan al-Khaleefa, 47, was fatally shot from a passing car as he walked alone on a street late Sunday. Numerous Iraqi local and national officials cooperating with the occupation have been targeted for assassination.
  • In the southern city of Basra, some 1,500 members of the Facilities Protection Service, a new Iraqi security guard force, staged a noisy protest and burned tires outside the mayor's office. They complained that their $60 bonus for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, was only half what police are receiving. Club-wielding British troops rushed to the scene, but no clashes or casualties were reported.

Associated Press writers Katarina Kratovac in Tikrit, Bassem Mroue at the crash site, and Robert Weller in Fort Carson, Colo., contributed to this report.



[AP story from November 7, 2003 adding one new death bringing the total to . . . 16 again!]


Death Toll in Iraq Copter Attack Hits 16 44 minutes ago

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of soldiers Thursday remembered their comrades who were killed Sunday when their helicopter was shot down in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces since the Iraq (news - web sites) war began March 20.

With some wearing ceremonial spurs and black regimental hats, the soldiers gathered at al-Assad, a windblown desert base 150 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Most of the fallen soldiers were headed to home leave in the United States and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon (news - web sites) announced that one of the soldiers injured in the attack died Thursday at a medical facility in Germany, raising the death toll to 16. Twenty-four others were injured.

Also Thursday, Poland suffered its first combat death since the aftermath of World War II when a Polish major was fatally wounded in an ambush south of Baghdad. Two American soldiers died in attacks near the capital and along the Syrian border.

The Polish officer was wounded when insurgents attacked a convoy of 16 Polish soldiers returning from a promotion ceremony for Iraqi civilian defense trainees near Baghdad. Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk, 44, died at a military hospital in Karbala, the Polish Defense Ministry said.

None of the other Polish soldiers was killed or wounded, according to Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski.

"This tragic event proves that the situation in Iraq is getting complicated," Szmajdzinski told reporters in Warsaw. "The level of professionalism of the terrorists is increasing."

Elsewhere, one U.S. soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed Thursday when his truck hit a land mine near the Husaybah border crossing point with Syria nearly 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military said.

A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and two others were wounded when their patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad late Wednesday, the military said.

In Washington on Thursday, Bush signed an $87.5 billion package approved by Congress for Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites), calling the money a financial commitment by the United States to the global war to defeat terrorism.

"With this act of Congress, no enemy or friend can doubt that America has the resources and the will to see this war through to victory," Bush said at a White House ceremony.

At al-Assad, U.S. troops honored their colleagues killed Sunday when insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter.

"Death was in the cause of freedom. They were serving our country and answering our nation's call to fight terrorists," said Col. David A. Teeples, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "We honor them for their sacrifice. We honor them as Americans, as soldier and as family."

The helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, one of the centers of Iraqi resistance about 40 miles west of Baghdad. On Wednesday, the 82nd Airborne Division said it captured two Iraqi army officers -- Lt. Gen. Khamis Saleh Ibrahim Al-Halbossi and Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Adwan Al-Alwani -- who were believed to have played a major role in attacks in the Fallujah area.

The deaths Thursday brought to 141 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in action before Bush's declaration.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced plans to send 85,000 relief troops to Iraq early next year, part of a rotation plan that assumes Iraqis be able to assume more control and American troops in Iraq can be reduced from 131,600 today to 105,000 by May, senior officials said.

Concern over security mounted after a series of attacks around the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began here Oct. 27. Since then, insurgents have rocketed the Al-Rasheed Hotel, set off deadly car bombs in Baghdad, fired mortars at the coalition headquarters compound in Baghdad and shot down the Chinook.

The number of daily attacks on coalition forces dropped to 29 last week from a spike of 37 the week before, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.

However, the chief British representative here, Jeremy Greenstock, said coalition forces face a "rough winter" of attacks, The Times of London newspaper reported in Wednesday's edition.

Greenstock also said it would be difficult to defeat the insurgents without the sort of heavy-handed measures that would further alienate the Iraqi people, the newspaper said.

The Polish major was the first Polish soldier killed by hostile fire in more than a half century of post-World War II peacekeeping missions, including the Golan Heights, Lebanon, Haiti and the Balkans. More than 500,000 Polish soldiers died during World War II, and 20,000 more were killed in fighting along the eastern border that continued until 1947.

The United States, Britain and now Poland are the only coalition members to have suffered combat deaths in Iraq. One Dane was killed by friendly fire.

Poland has 2,400 soldiers in Iraq and are in charge of a large swath of south-central Iraq where about 9,500 soldiers of several nations help maintain security. Poland was among the strongest supporters of the U.S.-led war to remove Saddam Hussein, and 250 Polish special forces soldiers fought in the conflict.

The killing of the Polish major took place a few days before the planned visit of Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who is due here as part of a Middle East tour.

Despite the growing risk to coalition forces, a senior Japanese official said in Baghdad that his country would honor its commitment to send peacekeepers to Iraq.

The Japanese plan to send a 150-member advance contingent to southern Iraq by the end of the year and 550 soldiers early next year to provide water, medical care and other services.

Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi in al-Assad, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Jim Gomez in Tikrit and Mariam Fam in Mosul contributed to this report.

The above item is reproduced without editing other than typographical

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