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Fighting terror

Helicopter was trying to help Afghan children

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 25, 2003

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- The U.S. Air Force helicopter that crashed Sunday in southeastern Afghanistan, killing all six people on board, was on a mercy mission to help two injured Afghan children, the U.S. military said Monday.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia was on its way late Sunday to pick up the children, who had suffered head injuries, said Army Col. Roger King. Thunderstorms were in the area at the time, he said.

"You think about the sacrifice these guys made, especially in this case where you've got military personnel who are conducting a flight that's basically a humanitarian mission," King said. "They're trying to go out and save some Afghan kid's life -- it's wrenching."

The Pentagon identified the dead as 1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta, 23, of Los Lunas, N.M.; Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks, 25, of Jefferson, S.C.; Senior Airman Jason Plite, 21, of Lansing, Mich.; Lt. Col. John Stein, 39, of Bardolph, Ill.; Staff Sgt. John Teal, 29, of Dallas; and Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, 42, of Valdosta, Ga., whose mother lives in Kenneth City.

King said the area is not considered a hostile region, and few U.S. military operations are there. U.S. Central Command said the helicopter was not shot down. "The investigation will probably bear out as to whether weather played any part in it," King said.

The helicopter crashed late Sunday about 8:50 p.m., about 20 miles north of Ghazni, Afghanistan. Ghazni is 50 miles southwest of Kabul.

"We express the Afghan government's sorrow for this incident, which occurred during a humanitarian operation to reach some Afghan children in need of medical care," Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said

"We wish to express our deepest condolences to the family members of these brave airmen and want them to know that we will not forget the valuable contributions they made to this country and the impact they made on the Air Force," Brig. Gen. John Folkerts, commander of the 347th Rescue Wing at Moody in Valdosta, Ga., said.

U.S. forces clash with warlord

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. and allied Afghan forces clashed with militiamen loyal to renegade warlord Bacha Khan Zardran in a battle that left up to 10 rebels dead, officials said Monday. No Americans died.

Both sides blamed the other for sparking the clash in Sato Kandow, on the road between the troubled eastern towns of Gardez and Khost.

A U.S. Army spokesman said there was a clash between U.S. Special Forces and between 10 and 20 rebel fighters. The militants fled after Apache helicopter gunships were called in to support the American forces, Col. Roger King said.

Test of bioterrorism detection conducted in Oklahoma

GOLDSBY, Okla. -- A cropduster sprayed a harmless substance above a field of cattle and oil pumps Monday in a test to see if weather radar could detect a bioterrorist attack.

It was the first spray of a three-week Army test over central Oklahoma. The plane will make 261 runs, dropping grain alcohol, clay dust and a mix of water and polyethylene glycol -- a common ingredient in lotions and mascara.

The harmless materials were chosen to produce a mist resembling the airborne particles that might be produced by a bioterrorism attack.

The test, taking place in Oklahoma because of the state's advanced weather radar system, will help Army and Environmental Protection Agency scientists determine how well radar can detect such materials. It will take weeks to analyze the data and determine how successful the test was, Army officials said.

Elsewhere ...

TERROR TRIAL WILL CONTINUE: The Detroit trial of four men accused of conspiring to support terrorism will continue despite the war with Iraq, U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen ruled Monday.

Karim Koubriti, 24; Ahmed Hannan, 34; Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 22; and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 37; are charged with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists.

MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO TRAINING AT CAMP: A second of six Yemeni-American men accused of training at an al-Qaida camp months before the Sept. 11 attacks pleaded guilty Monday to supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

In a plea deal, Shafal Mosed admitted attending the camp in Afghanistan from April to June 2001. Prosecutors dropped a charge and said they would seek a sentence of eight years on July 16.

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