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Iraq TV claims to show downed copter's crew

©Associated Press

March 25, 2003


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi state television on Monday showed two men, including one from Florida, said to have been the U.S. crew of an Apache helicopter forced down during heavy fighting in central Iraq.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. war commander, confirmed that one helicopter did not return from its mission Sunday and that its two-man crew was missing. The men were identified as Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga.

If confirmed, the airmen would be the second set of POWs displayed by the Iraqis in as many days.

The men shown Monday did not appear to be injured.

The two wore cream-colored pilots' overalls and did not speak to the camera but appeared confused. They turned their heads and looked in different directions while being filmed. One of the men sipped from a glass of water, looking wary but not cowed.

The contents of one man's wallet were displayed across a table, including a Texas driver's license, a card from the Fort Hood National Bank, phone cards and credit cards.

A spokesman at the U.S. Army post in Fort Hood, Texas, said that a helicopter from its 1st Battalion of the 227th Aviation Regiment was missing in action in Iraq.

"The unit was deployed in February," spokesman Dan Hassett said. "That's all I can really say right now."

Military officials said Williams has been in the service for 12 years, and has a wife and two children who live on Fort Hood. Young, an Army man for three years, is single.

"He felt good about what they were doing, that they were going to get out there and it was going to be a quick situation," his father, Ronald Young Sr., told CNN.

The footage was shown after Iraq claimed it shot down two Apache helicopters and was holding the pilots.

"A small number of peasants shot down two Apaches," Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said. "Perhaps we will show pictures of the pilots."

Franks denied that a second chopper had been lost or that any craft was shot down by farmers.

Sahhaf rejected accusations that Iraq had violated the Geneva Conventions by allowing Iraqi television to film the POWs and ask questions.

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