Six die as Blackhawk is 'forced down'

Six US soldiers were killed on Friday when a Blackhawk helicopter was “forced down” outside an American base near the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, US military officials said.

“The total number of people on board was six. All six have died,” said Major Josselyn Aberle, a spokesperson for the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in the northern city, who added that all six were US soldiers.

“A Blackhawk was forced down near Tikrit,” a spokesperson said in Baghdad.

White smoke could be seen rising from a strip of land in the middle of the Tigris River where the helicopter went down just outside the 4ID Ironhorse base.

Aberle said the cause of the crash was being investigated, and that officials were looking into reports that loud booms were heard just before the Blackhawk went down.

“At approximately 9:40 am (0640 GMT), a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter went down in Tikrit on the east side of the Tigris river near the main palace complex,” Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald, also a 4ID spokesperson, said earlier.

“We sent rescue and security teams,” MacDonald said.

Tikrit, 180km north of Baghdad, is the home town of deposed president Saddam Hussein and a stronghold of his supporters.
It has been the scene of frequent attacks against the US-led coalition occuying Iraq.

On Sunday, a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by a ground-fired missile near Fallujah, another flashpoint town 50km west of Baghdad, killing 16 soldiers and wounding 26.

A Blackhawk was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade just outside Tikrit on October 25. - Sapa-AFP

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