Resistance Fighters Strike Back Again - 18 Americans Dead, 21 Wounded...

David Quarter davidquarter at
Sun Nov 2 19:53:14 MST 2003

From:           	mart <mart2 at>

Deadliest Strike on U.S. Troops in Iraq Comes After 'Tough Week'
The Associated Press
Sunday 02 November 2003

  Fallujah, Iraq - Insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter with dozens of
American troops on board Sunday, killing 15 and wounding 21 in the deadliest
strike against U.S. forces since the war began -- a sign of the increasing
sophistication of Iraq's elusive anti-U.S. fighters.

  The giant helicopter was ferrying the soldiers on their way for leave
outside Iraq when, witnesses told The Associated Press, two missiles
streaked into the sky, fired from a date palm grove, and slammed into the
rear of the aircraft. It crashed in flames in farmers' fields west of

  It was the deadliest day for U.S. troops since March 23 -- the first week
of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein -- and a major escalation in the
campaign to drive the U.S.-led coalition out of the country.

  Three other Americans were killed in separate attacks Sunday, including
one 1st Armored Division soldier in Baghdad and two U.S. civilians working
for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fallujah. All three were victims of
roadside bombs, the military said.

  ``It's clearly a tragic day for America,'' Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld said in Washington. ``In a long, hard war, we're going to have
tragic days. But they're necessary. They're part of a war that's difficult
and complicated.''

  Like past attacks on U.S. forces and a string of suicide bombings that
killed dozens in Baghdad the past week, U.S. coalition officials blamed
either Saddam loyalists or foreign fighters for the strike outside Fallujah,
a center of Sunni Muslim resistance to the U.S. occupation.

  L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupation in Iraq, repeated demands that
Syria and Iran prevent fighters from crossing their borders into Iraq.
``They could do a much better job of helping us seal that border and keeping
terrorist out of Iraq,'' he told CNN.

  The ``enemies of freedom'' in Iraq ``are using more sophisticated
techniques to attack our forces,'' he said.

  U.S. officials have been warning of the danger of shoulder-fired missiles,
thousands of which are now scattered from Saddam's arsenals, and such
missiles are believed to have downed two U.S. copters since May 1. Those two
crashes -- of smaller helicopters -- left only one American wounded.

  The loaded-down Chinook was a dramatic new target. The insurgents have
been steadily advancing in their weaponry, first using homemade roadside
bombs, then rocket-fired grenades in ambushes on American patrols, and
vehicles stuffed with explosives and detonated by suicide attackers.

  In the fields south of Fallujah, some villagers proudly showed off
blackened pieces of the Chinook's wreckage to arriving reporters.

  Though a few villagers tried to help, many celebrated word of the
helicopter downing, as well as a fresh attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah
itself. Two American civilians working under contract for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers were killed and one was injured in the explosion of a
roadside bomb, the military said.

  ``This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy
aggressors,'' one Fallujah resident, who wouldn't give his name, said of the
helicopter downing. ``They'll never be safe until they get out of our
country,'' he said of the Americans.

  The downed copter was one of two Chinooks flying out in formation from an
air base in Habbaniyah, about 10 miles from the crash site, carrying troops
to Baghdad on route for rest and recreation -- R&R.

  The missiles semed to have been fired from a palm grove about 500 yards
away, Thaer Ali, 21, said. At least one hit the Chinook, which came down in
a field in the farming village of Hasai, a few miles south of Fallujah,
witnesses said.

  The missiles flashed toward the helicopter from the rear, as usual with
heat-seeking ground-fired missiles. The most common model in the former
Iraqi army inventory was the Russian-made SA-7, also known as Strelas.

  Hours later, thick smoke rose from the blackened, smoldering hulk as U.S.
soldiers swarmed over the crash site, evacuating the injured, retrieving
evidence and cordoning off the area.

  Yassin Mohamed said he heard the explosion and ran out of his house, a
half-mile away. ``I saw the helicopter burning. I ran toward it because I
wanted to help put out the fire, but couldn't get near because of American

  The U.S. military would not confirm that the aircraft was struck by a
missile, but a spokesman, Col. William Darley, said witnesses reported
seeing ``missile trails.''

  In Baghdad, Darley said the CH-47 helicopter belonged to the 12th Aviation
Brigade, a Germany-based unit that supports the 82nd Airborne Division Task
Force operating west of Baghdad.

  The two Chinooks were carrying a total of more than 50 passengers to the
U.S. base at Baghdad International Airport, from which they were to fly out
on leave, U.S. officials said. Darley said some of the casualties were from
medical units, but officials did not provide a breakdown of their units.

  The Pentagon had announced Friday it was expanding the rest and recreation
leave program for troops in Iraq. As of Sunday, it said, the number of
soldiers departing daily to the U.S. via a transit facility in neighboring
Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280.

  Fallujah lies in the so-called ``Sunni Triangle,'' a region north and west
of Baghdad were most attacks on American forces have taken place. The
downing and the soldier's death in Baghdad brought to at least 138 the
number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush
declared an end to combat on May 1.

  Around 376 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military
operations in Iraq.

  The death toll Sunday surpasses one of the deadliest single attacks during
the Iraq war: the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company, in which
11 soldiers were killed, nine were wounded and seven captured, including
Pvt. Jessica Lynch. A total of 28 Americans around Iraq -- including the
casualties from the ambush -- died on that day, the deadliest for U.S.
troops during the Iraq war.

  Meanwhile, in Abu Ghraib on Baghdad's western edge, U.S. troops clashed
with townspeople Sunday. Local Iraqis said U.S. troops arrived Sunday
morning and ordered people to disperse from the marketplace. Someone then
tossed a grenade at the Americans, who opened fire, witnesses said, and the
soldiers opened fire.

  The newest deaths capped a week of extraordinary carnage in and around
Baghdad. Last Sunday came a rocket attack against a hotel housing hundreds
of coalition staffers that killed one and injured 15.

  A day later, four coordinated suicide bombings in Baghdad killed three
dozen people and wounded more than 200. Attacks against U.S. forces have
increased in the last three weeks to an average of 33 a day from the


  U.S. Soldier Killed in Baghdad Bomb Blast

  Baghdad - A bomb planted on a road in Baghdad killed a U.S. soldier from
the 1st Armored Division on Sunday, an Army spokesman said.

  The spokesman said the soldier was evacuated to hospital after his vehicle
drove over the bomb in the early hours of Sunday, but he died a few hours

  The death brought to at least 123 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in
action in Iraq (news - web sites) since Washington declared major combat
over on May 1.

  Also Sunday, the U.S. military said a U.S. Chinook helicopter carrying up
to 35 people had been shot down, killing at least one person on board and
wounding at least 20. There were no immediate details on whether the victims
were soldiers on civilians.

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