Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 7 News List

British helicopter shot down in Basra, four die


A British military helicopter crashed in Basra yesterday, and Iraqis hurled stones at British troops and set fire to at least one armored vehicle that rushed to the scene. Clashes broke out between British troops and Shiite militias, police and witnesses said.

Police Captain Mushtaq Khazim said the helicopter was shot down in a residential district the city.

He said the four-member crew was killed, but British officials said only that there had been "casualties."

British forces backed by armored vehicles rushed to the area but were met by a hail of stones from the crowd of at least 250 people, who jumped for joy and raised their fists as a plume of thick smoke rose into the air from the crash site.

The crowd also set at least one British armored vehicle on fire, apparently with a rocket-propelled grenade, but the British soldiers inside escaped unhurt, witnesses said. The British fired weapons into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Shooting broke out between the British and armed militiamen, and at least two people, including a child, were killed, Khazim said.

Crowds chanted "we are all soldiers of al-Sayed," a reference to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, an ardent foe of the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

Later the crowd began to scatter as they heard an explosion. Groups of men set fire to tires in the streets and the situation remained tense.

In other violence, a suicide bomber wearing an Iraqi army uniform entered an Iraqi base in Tikrit and detonated an explosives belt, killing an Iraqi lieutenant colonel, a major and a lieutenant and wounding a lieutenant colonel, said Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Aziz Mohammed Jassim.

The bomber targeted a group of Iraqi army recruits who had just finished their training and were being dispatched to another area of Iraq, Jassim said.

The attack in the Sunni Arab city 130km north of Baghdad appeared to be part of a campaign by Sunni-led insurgents to discourage Sunnis from joining Iraqi security forces.

A roadside bomb also exploded yesterday near a Polish convoy in Diwaniyah south of Baghdad, wounding three soldiers, the Polish Defense Ministry said.

In other developments from yesterday, according to police:

* A bomb in a parked car exploded, killing two policemen and an Iraqi soldier and wounding four civilians about 50km north of Baquba, police said.

* Suspected insurgents kidnapped seven Iraqis, including three paramilitary policemen, south of Baghdad in an area where a roadside bomb killed three US service members the day before.

* Roadside bombs hit two Iraqi police patrols in Baghdad, killing one officer and wounding two policemen and six civilians.

* Two rockets or mortars were fired in northern Baghdad, one hitting a home and killing two children and wounding a woman.

* Police in Baghdad found the bodies of seven Iraqi men, five of them relatives from Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, who had been kidnapped and brutally killed.

* A roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul wounded two Iraqi policemen. Police also found the bullet-ridden bodies of a father and son who had been kidnapped earlier in the day.

* Iraqi and US forces searched shops for weapons and imposed a curfew in Rawah, a Sunni city 280km northwest of Baghdad.

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