US soldier killed in helicopter crash

March 4, 2008 1:54:29 PM PST
An Iraqi military helicopter crashed in northern Iraq, killing an American soldier and seven other people, the U.S. military said Tuesday. The announcement came on a day that recorded little violence in Iraq. The country's president announced he would visit neighboring Turkey, and the prime minister called for the release of a kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop.

The Russian-made M-17 helicopter was found Tuesday south of Beiji, about 90 miles south of Mosul, a day after it was reported missing. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said the aircraft got caught in bad weather.

All eight people on board the helicopter died, including the U.S. soldier, said military spokesman Lt. Michael Street.

An Iraqi air force official said six Iraqis and two foreigners were on board. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, did not give the nationality of the other foreigner. Street said he was unaware that another foreigner was aboard the helicopter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said it killed three extremists in an effort to capture an al-Qaida in Iraq leader in eastern Baghdad.

The targeted individual was not killed, but three associates were when they failed to heed troops' demands that they halt their vehicle. A civilian was injured in the clash, the statement said.

The military also said that Iraqi special forces, with guidance from their U.S. counterparts, detained two al-Qaida in Iraq suspects in raids Saturday.

On Tuesday, Iraqi police arrested eight alleged al-Qaida members in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, according to local police Col. Mazin Younis.

A separate police unit led a joint operation with U.S. forces in Wasit province, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, that netted 26 suspected Shiite extremists, the military said. The raid also uncovered stores of explosives, said the regional police chief, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Hamid Faisal al-Emarah.

Violence has declined in much of Iraq in recent months except for north of Baghdad in Mosul city and Diyala province, where most of the fight is being waged against al-Qaida elements retreating from the west and the capital.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered his security officials to "work hard" to find a Chaldean Catholic archbishop who was kidnapped in Mosul.

Paulos Faraj Rahho was seized and three of his companions were killed Friday when gunmen attacked them soon after he left Mass, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq's small Christian community.

Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani's office announced that he will pay an official visit to Turkey within the next few days. The exact date has not yet been set.

Turkish troops withdrew from northern Iraq on Feb. 29, ending an eight-day incursion against Kurdish PKK rebels using bases in northern Iraq to launch hit-and-run attacks in Turkey.

Iraqi authorities have said they do not support the PKK but objected to Turkey's military action. Talabani, himself a Kurd, welcomed the end of the incursion.


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