| US soldiers console each other during a memorial at the al Asad air base near Tikrit for the 15 victims of the Chinook helicopter that was shot down by guerrillas on Sunday. , (Reuters)
Tikrit, Nov. 7 (Reuters): A US Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Saddam Hussein’s hometown in Iraq today, killing six people on board, and US soldiers said it had been probably been shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Apache attack helicopters were scouring the area around the crash in Tikrit, 175 km north of Baghdad, hunting for guerrillas who may have brought the Black Hawk down. If confirmed to have been attacked by guerrillas, it would be the third US helicopter shot down in two weeks.
The US military said two soldiers had also been killed in the northern city of Mosul, one in a bomb attack yesterday morning and one in an ambush today.
“At approximately 0600 GMT this morning a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down,” Major Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division said. “At this stage we don’t know if it was due to mechanical failure or another reason.”
But soldiers in Tikrit said initial reports suggested the helicopter had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
A column of smoke rose from the crash site, and US troops sealed off the area. Soldiers at the base said they heard two explosions and ran outside to see the destroyed helicopter.
A military spokeswoman said the helicopter had burst into flames after crashing on the banks of the Tigris river.
The Black Hawk is the US army’s frontline utility helicopter, designed to carry 11 combat-ready assault troops, and is also used for medical evacuations.
Last Sunday, guerrillas shot down a US Chinook helicopter west of Baghdad as it carried troops on a rest and recreation break, killing 16 American soldiers in the deadliest single strike on US-led forces since they invaded to oust Saddam.
On October 25, guerrillas brought down a Black Hawk in Tikrit, hitting one of its engines with a rocket-propelled grenade. The helicopter made an emergency landing, and all five crew members escaped before it was engulfed in flames. The attacks brought to at least 141 the number of US soldiers killed in action since Washington declared major combat over on May 1.
Saudi terror threat
The US said today that terrorists were close to carrying out attacks in Saudi Arabia and that US diplomatic missions in the Gulf Arab state would close tomorrow to review the security situation. An US advisory said: “The embassy continues to receive credible information that terrorists in Saudi Arabia have moved from the planning to operational phase of planned attacks in the kingdom.”