Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bodies found near Baghdad after crash

CASUALTIES The US army said it had recovered the bodies of two troops missing since a helicopter crash on Tuesday as the Stryker Brigade began patrolling the city


The bodies of two US soldiers missing since a helicopter crash this week were found west of Baghdad, the US military said. That brought the number of US troops to die this month in Iraq to at least 19 -- most in insurgent-plagued Anbar Province.

Four US service members -- two from the Army and two from the Navy -- were injured when the US Army UH60 Blackhawk helicopter went down Tuesday. The military has said the crash was not a result of hostile fire.

All but five of the US military deaths in Iraq this month have occurred in Anbar Province, the Sunni Arab-dominated province west of Baghdad that has long been a center of the insurgency against the US-led coalition.

That shows the continuing threat from Sunni Arab insurgents despite the focus on Sunni-Shiite violence in Baghdad, which US officials now describe as the greatest danger facing Iraq's new government of national unity.

US commanders are rushing nearly 12,000 US and Iraqi troops into the capital to try to curb sectarian fighting. The military has not said how many reinforcements have arrived in Baghdad, but some soldiers of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade have been seen on the city's streets.

The brigade, with its distinctive Stryker armored vehicles, was shifted from northern Iraq as part of the campaign to bolster security in Baghdad.

Baghdad was generally quiet on Friday as a vehicle ban kept private cars and trucks off the streets for much of the day. The government restricts use of private cars in Baghdad on Fridays, the main Muslim day of worship, to prevent car bomb attacks on mosques.

However, Shiite assailants ransacked and burned a provincial office of the Iraqi president's Kurdish party early on Friday, accusing its official newspaper of unfairly criticizing a Shiite cleric, police said.

About 50 armed followers of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi stormed the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, beat up the guards and destroyed furniture before setting the building on fire, said police Lieutenant Othman al-Lami.

The attackers fled after seizing three AK-47 rifles from the guards, one of whom was injured, al-Lami said. There were no officials in the office during the early morning raid in Kut, 160km southeast of Baghdad.

The offending article in the PUK newspaper included a July 29 statement by al-Yacoubi in which he accused Kurds in the Kurdish-dominated Tamim Province, which includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, of attacking Arabs and Turkomen.

It said al-Yacoubi was spreading "hatred against the Kurds" and trying to "ignite a war between the Arab Shiites and Kurds."

In a statement on Friday, Talabani acknowledged that some of the phrases used in his party newspaper's article were "inappropriate ... despite the bitterness that he and every Kurdish felt" over al-Yacoubi's purported statement.

He said he was not aware of the article's contents until it was published.

Al-Yacoubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadhila, or Virtue, party, which is part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, was not immediately available for comment.

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