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U.S. troops rescued in copter crash

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 22, 2007


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BAGHDAD - A U.S. helicopter was shot down and crashed north of Baghdad on Wednesday, the military said after initially stating that the chopper made a "hard landing." All aboard were safely evacuated by a second helicopter, said a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.

"I can confirm that initial reports indicate that it was brought down by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades," Garver said, adding that the site had been secured.

Garver's statement came hours after Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief military spokesman, told reporters that the Black Hawk had made a "hard landing."

At least seven U.S. helicopters have crashed or been forced down by hostile fire since Jan. 20, killing 28 troops and civilians.

U.S. to investigate Iraq rape case

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military on Wednesday weighed into the politically explosive case of a Sunni woman allegedly raped last weekend by three Iraqi police officers, announcing its own investigation after the Shiite-run government dismissed her allegations as false.

Gen. David Petraeus, the new top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered the investigation, the military said.

The announcement, made to reporters by the chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, appeared aimed at containing a growing political storm.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, stoked the political flames further Wednesday by firing a top Sunni official who called for an international investigation into the woman's allegations. Maliki also announced a "reward" for the officers who were implicated.

Suicide blast kills 13 in Shiite holy city

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber struck a police checkpoint Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing 13 people in the spiritual heartland of the militia factions led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Government officials marked the first week of a wide-ranging security sweep in Baghdad by U.S. and Iraqi forces seeking to put death squads and insurgents on the run. But a string of bombings in the Baghdad area - which have claimed more than 100 lives since Sunday - have quieted the early fanfare and highlighted the huge challenges of trying to reclaim control of the blood-soaked capital.

A car bomb in the western Baghdad district of Bayya killed at least two and injured 31, police said. Later, a car bomb in the neighborhood killed at least three people. The area, a hotbed of sectarian tensions, is mixed between Sunni and Shiites.

Insurgents turn to 'dirty' bombs

BAGHDAD - For the third time in a month, insurgents deployed a new and deadly tactic against Iraqi civilians on Wednesday: a dirty bomb combining explosives with poisonous chlorine gas.

A pickup truck carrying canisters of the gas, which burns the skin and can be fatal after only a few concentrated breaths, exploded near a diesel-fuel station in southwestern Baghdad, killing at least five people and sending another 75 to hospitals, wheezing and coughing, for treatment, Interior Ministry and medical officials said.

On Tuesday, a tanker truck filled with chlorine exploded north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children.

At least one other attack with chlorine occurred on Jan. 28 in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, according to American military statements. Sixteen people died after a dump truck with explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Ramadi.

Guilty plea in rape, murder accepted

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A military judge on Wednesday approved a second U.S. soldier's plea to the gang rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the slaying of her family.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, entered the plea Tuesday to four murders, rape and conspiracy to rape. With the approval of the plea agreement by Col. Stephen R. Henley, Cortez will avoid the death penalty.

Under terms of the agreement for Cortez's guilty pleas, he would cooperate with prosecutors and be sentenced to life in prison, plus reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

According to the plea deal, Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Spc. James P. Barker and Steven D. Green illegally went into the home of the girl's family in Mahmoudiya, and Cortez held her while Barker raped her. While Cortez raped her, Green shot and killed the girl's parents and younger sister, the agreement said. Cortez then acted as a lookout while Green raped the girl, and Green shot her, the document said. Cortez helped burn the girl's body and the home, then burned his clothes.

U.S. won't relent in war, says Cheney

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan - Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed the Bush administration's commitment to the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq on Wednesday, saying the United States wants to finish its mission, then "come home with honor."

Cheney, who arrived in Japan on Tuesday, was given a 19-gun salute as he boarded the USS Kitty Hawk at this U.S. Navy base just south of Tokyo.

Japan pulled its troops out of Iraq last year. The country still operates airlifts in the region in support of the U.S.-led forces, a mission set to end in July.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 01:09:22]


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