Iraqi crowd turns violent after British copter downed
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 7, 2006
BAGHDAD - A British military helicopter, thought to have been disabled by a missile, smashed into a vacant lot between two houses in the southern city of Basra, bursting into flames. Then things turned uglier.
A mob of Iraqis gathered near the smoking wreckage Saturday, dancing in celebration at the reported deaths of the four crew members. Some 250 people, many of them teenagers, jubilantly pumped their fists.
When British soldiers arrived in hopes of rescuing the helicopter crew, the crowd unleashed a hail of stones and hurled firebombs while chanting, "We are all soldiers of al-Sayed," referring to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric who is a foe of foreign troops in Iraq.
As many as three British armored vehicles were set on fire, likely with gasoline bombs and a rocket-propelled grenade, but troops inside were unhurt, witnesses said.
Iraqi police said the British soldiers fired in the air trying to scatter the crowd, but Shiite gunmen intervened and a gun battle erupted.
By the time calm was restored, four Iraqi adults and a child were dead, along with the four British helicopter crew members, and 30 civilians were injured, police said.
Iraqi police Capt. Mushtaq Khazim said the helicopter went down after it was struck by a shoulder-fired missile.
The British Defense Ministry would not discuss the cause of the afternoon crash. It confirmed that there were casualties but did not give a figure.
Elsewhere, a suicide bomber wearing an Iraqi army uniform entered an Iraqi base in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and detonated an explosives belt, killing three officers, said the Iraqi Defense Ministry's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed Jassim.
The U.S. command also said that an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Friday.
In other developments Saturday, according to police:
n Two Iraqi soldiers and three insurgents were killed in a firefight near Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad.
n A car bomb killed two police officers and an Iraqi soldier about 30 miles north of Baqubah.
[Last modified May 7, 2006, 07:09:09]
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