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Four Soldiers Die In Chopper Crash

A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed early Tuesday on a night training mission in the Kuwaiti desert, killing all four crew members, the U.S. Army said.

Kuwaiti army spokesman Col. Youssef al-Mulla said the helicopter went down in bad weather. Sandstorms and high winds were reported overnight and continued Tuesday afternoon.

The UH-60 Black Hawk crashed about 1 a.m. near Camp New Jersey, about 30 miles northwest of Kuwait City, an Army statement said.

The aircraft, which belonged to the Army's V Corps, was part of the force that has been massed in this Gulf emirate for a possible invasion of Iraq.

The soldiers' identifications were withheld until their families could be notified. The crew were the only personnel on board, the Army said.

Cheryl Irwin, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said Central Command was investigating the crash.

Less than a month ago an MH-60, an adapted version of the Black Hawk, crashed in a training mission 7 miles east of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Four members of an elite aviation regiment were killed in the Jan. 30 crash.

Five American soldiers were killed Dec. 11 in the last crash of a Black Hawk, when an Army helicopter on a training mission went down about 40 minutes after takeoff into central Honduran mountains.

More than 70,000 U.S. troops are training in the Kuwaiti desert in preparation for a possible invasion of Iraq.

President Bush has threatened to use force to disarm Baghdad of weapons of mass destruction if it does not do so voluntarily according to U.N. resolutions. Iraq denies it has such weapons.

Major movements of troops often lead to deadly accidents. In the buildup to and conduct of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, 148 Americans died in battle while 145 were killed in other accidents.

However, aviation accidents are always part of military life. Since October, the Pentagon has reported 28 accidents and 22 deaths. The Navy had the most accidents (10) and the Army the most fatalities (10).

Accidents are down compared to the same period last year.

At least 39 soldiers and crew members have been killed and 38 injured in Black Hawk crashes since 1999. Last May, hundreds of Black Hawk helicopters were grounded because of a problem detected in one helicopter's transmission.

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