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US Transport Helicopter Downed in Iraq, At Least 15 Dead - 2003-11-02


At least 15 soldiers were killed and as many as 20 others injured when a U.S. Army helicopter was shot down Sunday west of Baghdad.

Emergency vehicles, rescue personnel and U.S. military officials are at the scene of the downed U.S. Army Chinook helicopter.

The helicopter was heading towards Baghdad airport carrying as many as 35 people and was flying in tandem with another Chinook helicopter that was carrying about 25 passengers.

U.S. military officials said the helicopters were transporting troops that were heading for rest and recreation leave abroad.

The aircraft was hit with an, as yet, unknown weapon near the town of Fallujah about 60 kilometers west of Baghdad.

The Chinook helicopter is widely used by the military to transport troops and artillery supplies.

The U.S. military has acknowledged that it has not been able to locate a large number of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that were once part of the arsenal of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Those missiles remain a significant threat to coalition aircraft in Iraq.

The missiles are easily transported, weighing about 30 pounds with a length of less than six feet.

The U.S. military has offered rewards of 500 dollars for the return of the missiles, but on the black market they can bring as much as 5,000 dollars.

Coalition officials said Thursday that portable missiles have been fired at incoming planes several times over the past few weeks and is the primary reason why Baghdad International Airport has remained closed to commercial traffic.

A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crash landed October 25th after taking ground fire near the town of Tikrit north of Baghdad. One crewmember was injured.

On June 12th a U.S. Army Apache helicopter was shot down in western Iraq. Its two crewmembers were not injured.

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