Helicopter crashes while delivering aid to refugees in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- A Russian-built Iraqi military helicopter providing aid to those stranded on a mountain fleeing Sunni militants crashed Tuesday after too many tried to climb aboard, killing the pilot, said the army spokesman.

Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said in a statement that Iraqi parliamentarian Vian Dakheel, of the minority Yazidi community most affected by the fighting, was aboard the Mi-17 helicopter and was injured in the crash. She and others aboard were evacuated to a hospital in the nearby Kurdish autonomous region.

The New York Times reported on its website that reporter Alissa J. Rubin, riding along on the helicopter for a story, suffered an apparent concussion and broken wrists in the crash. Photographer Adam Ferguson was also on board but uninjured.

"The helicopter delivered aid to the people stranded in Sinjar and too many people boarded it and it hit the mountain during takeoff," said the Iraqi statement.

Meanwhile, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the U.S. is considering sending more advisers to Iraq. They would go to Erbil, where there is currently an operations center but no advisers, and would among other things help manage the flow of arms deliveries to the Kurds, coordinate airstrikes, and work on ways to get Yazidis off the northern Iraq mountain where they are currently trapped.

Sunni militants from the Islamic State group on Aug. 4 took the town of Sinjar in a remote region of Iraq near the Syrian border and gave the local Yazidi minority population an ultimatum to convert to Islam or die.

The Yazidis, a 500,000 strong people, follow an ancient religion with links to Zoroastrianism but are seen as infidels by the radical Islamists.

Tens of thousands fled to the remote and arid Sinjar mountains where they suffered from lack of food and water, prompting Iraq, the U.S. and other nations to airlift them food and water.

Iraqi military helicopters have attempted to ferry out a few of the displaced out but most have been slowly making their way to the protection of the Kurdish autonomous region.

Dakheel, the sole lawmaker from the Yazidi community, made an impassioned plea in parliament on Aug 5 to save her people before leaving for the north.

As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports, Yazidis are stranded on the mountain in northwest Iraq, facing starvation.

A dramatic video showed one aid helicopter leaving with the people most in need, including dehydrated children. More than 50 children have already died on the mountain.

But they were lucky to get away safely. As a final goodbye, the militants opened fired on the helicopter.

Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS, have unleashed a wave of hatred and violence, seizing a swath of territory in northern Iraq.

They practice a strict form of Sunni Islam, and they're targeting Iraqis from other religious groups.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App