CBSN

Deadly U.S. Chopper Crash

US Army soldiers at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, 11-6-03
AP
U.S. military officials say a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed Friday near Tikrit, the north-central Iraqi city which is both the hometown of Saddam Hussein and the place where he has been suspected of hiding out.

Six soldiers were killed in Friday's helicopter accident, which is the third for U.S. troops in Iraq in less than two weeks.

All of the dead are from the 101st Airborne.

It is not yet known whether the aircraft went down because of mechanical failure or hostile fire. But a military source says it may have been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The helicopter went down about 9:40 a.m. on a riverbank along the Tigris River about a half mile from the U.S. base in Saddam Hussein's former palace.

White smoke was seen rising from the wreckage and three other choppers were hovering overhead.

The crash came only a few hours after a memorial service held Thursday night for the 16 soldiers who were killed Sunday when their Chinook helicopter was shot down near Fallujah.

The crash, which injured 26 others, happened as the soldiers were headed out of Iraq for long-awaited two-week leaves back home.

On October 25, a Black Hawk was shot down near Tikrit and one crew member was injured.

Shortly after Friday's helicopter crash came word of two other attacks on U.S. troops. One American soldier was killed, and six others were wounded when guerrillas in eastern Mosul attacked a U.S. convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire Friday morning.

Three others were injured later Friday when a roadside bomb exploded near the Mosul Hotel, which is now used as a military barracks.

The spate of attacks in the past week in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, has raised concerns among U.S. military commanders that the insurgency is spreading into that region from its main stronghold in the so-called Sunni Triangle, to the west and north of Baghdad.

The city is very close to the semiautonomous Kurdish areas that lie between it and the Turkish border.

In Other Developments:

  • Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch feels there was no reason for her rescue from an Iraqi hospital last April to have been filmed. In an interview for ABC's "Primetime," the 20-year-old former Army supply clerk says the U.S. military used her capture and rescue to boost public support for the war. "They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff," said Lynch. "It's wrong." Lynch, who was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals, is doing a series of interviews to promote her book, "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story." An excerpt printed in The New York Daily News revealed that medical evidence suggests she was raped while held prisoner.
  • Iraqi intelligence officials, claiming to have the backing of Saddam Hussein, reportedly made a desperate final bid to avoid an invasion on the eve of the American-led war. The New York Times says the Iraqis pledged cooperation in the war on terror, offering to hand over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center attack who had been detained in Iraq.

    The Iraqis also insisted they didn't have weapons of mass destruction, suggested the U.S. send search teams of investigators, vowed to work for Mideast peace, promised U.S. access to Iraqi oil, and said Iraq would hold elections within two years.

    The offer - which Newsweek says is being scrutinized by Congressional investigators - is said to have been rejected by the CIA. Senior U.S. officials said again Thursday that war could not have been averted, and Iraq's moves were viewed largely as stalling tactics.

  • Several thousand Marines, who normally are not used for occupation duty but are held in reserve to respond to crises around the world, will be sent to Iraq in an effort to take some of the burden off the Army. More than 30,000 reservists will have to be called up. CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports the call-ups are part of a new troop rotation plan that will actually reduce the number of American soldiers in Iraq by next spring.
  • U.S. military officials say two American soldiers were killed in separate incidents near Baghdad and along the Syrian border. As of Friday morning, at least 141 U.S. soldiers have been 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 the active combat phase that began March 20.
  • Poland suffered its first combat death in Iraq when a major was shot in an ambush south of the capital.

    Thursday in al-Assad, a desert base 155 miles northwest of Baghdad, nearly a thousand U.S. troops, some wearing ceremonial spurs and black regimental hats, held a memorial service for the 16 soldiers who were killed in the shooting down of the Chinook helicopter near Fallujah on Sunday.

    It was the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces since the Iraq war began March 20.

    "Death was in the cause of freedom. They were serving our country and answering our nation's call to fight terrorists," said the unit's commanding officer, Col. David Teeples. "We honor them for their sacrifice. We honor them as Americans, as soldier and as family."

    Army officials said the helicopter's crew apparently had a last-second warning of an approaching missile and managed to launch flares designed to draw the heat-seeking missile away. The defensive measure did not work and the missile slammed into the right side of the helicopter's rear engine, destroying it and triggering a fire.

    In Washington Thursday, President Bush signed an $87.5 billion package approved by Congress for Iraq and Afghanistan, 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," said President Bush, at a White House ceremony.

    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 American helicopter.

    According to a U.S. military spokesman, the number of daily attacks on coalition forces dropped to 29 last week from a spike of 37 the previous week.