U.S. Helicopter Is Shot Down Over Baghdad; Crew Escapes

Baghdad, Iraq, – A United States military helicopter was hit Sunday morning by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed in Baghdad’s Shiite slum, but its two crew members escaped unharmed, military officials said.

The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior was flying on a reconnaissance mission with a helicopter of the same type when it came under fire about 9:30 a.m. and went down in the slum, called Sadr City.

Armed Iraqis swarmed the area shortly after the crash, but stopped short of a swath of several blocks that Bradley fighting vehicles had staked out to secure the helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior, a small, light vehicle from the First Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was usually used for surveillance.

It was several hours before troops from the Second Battalion, Fifth Cavalry, were able to drag the helicopter from the area using vehicles, a military spokeswoman said.

Sadr City has been the site of several days of sporadic fighting between American troops and residents. Many Sadr City residents are followers of the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who is under siege by American and Iraqi troops in the southern city of Najaf.

About 20 people died in skirmishes in Sadr City from Saturday to early Sunday, the Health Ministry said.

[A suicide car bomb exploded Monday in Balad Ruz, 40 miles northeast Baghdad, in what appeared to be an attempt to assassinate a deputy governor, The Associated Press reported. Officials said seven policemen had been killed and the deputy governor had been slightly wounded.

[Qaiser Hamid, a hospital official in the area, said 14 people had been wounded, including the deputy governor of Diyala Province, Aqil Hamid al-Adili. Mr. Hamid described Mr. Adili's wounds as slight.]

An area near the site of the helicopter crash held a jumble of Iraqi men carrying pistols, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Some slowly made their way toward the crash site. One had a sticker of Mr. Sadr on his grenade launcher.

A handful of men standing in a narrow alleyway ducked as a shell hit a wall along the road, injuring one of them. It was unclear if the shell had come from a tank.

Later in the afternoon, after the helicopter had been removed, some Iraqis reached the crash site. They picked up what looked like pieces of the aircraft’s windows or windshield, an American Army helmet and what appeared to be the door of a ground vehicle.

They held the items high in the air, smiling and laughing.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/09/international/middleeast/09sadr.html