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Video shows helicopter crash



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Insurgents caused the aircraft wreck.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Videotapes showing the downing of a commercial helicopter in central Iraq and the execution of the sole surviving crew member emerged Friday on the Internet and an Arab satellite news channel.

The videos circulated as insurgents detonated a car bomb outside of a Shiite Muslim mosque in eastern Baghdad, apparently the latest sign of sectarian violence in Iraq. The blast killed at least eight people, according to witnesses and hospital workers.

Two militant Islamic groups claimed responsibility for the recordings, which show an insurgent attack that on Thursday killed six American security guards, three Bulgarian crew members and two Fijian guards. The helicopter was the first civilian aircraft shot down since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago.

Al Jazeera showed a white, low-flying helicopter moving away from the camera when two loud booms sound. The aircraft then erupts into flames and arcs toward the ground in a disintegrating cluster of debris. Al Jazeera said a group calling itself the Mujahedin Army in Iraq made the clip.

Another video posted on a jihadist Web site apparently shows gunmen finding a Bulgarian crew member alive at the crash site and shooting him to death.

Series of videos

The videotapes circulating Friday were yet another installment in a series of grisly recordings of shootings, beheadings and insurgent attacks produced by Islamic extremists since the invasion of Iraq.

Another video released to Al Jazeera showed gunmen threatening to kill three Romanian journalists and an Iraqi American translator kidnapped last month unless Romanian troops leave Iraq within four days.

Looking gaunt and frightened, two of the hostages appear to be speaking to the camera. But no audio portion was broadcast.

The blast at the Baghdad mosque, meanwhile, injured at least 30 worshippers and caused part of the structure to collapse.

"There were so many people because in addition to the Friday prayer, we also had a memorial for the dead at the mosque," said the mosque's head cleric. Fearing further attacks, he declined to reveal his name.

"They were men, women and even children; all were civilians," said Iraqi Police Sgt. Raid Hammad Mirza. "We took about 20 wounded to the hospital and about 10 corpses."

Limbs were scattered throughout the rubble and people in bloody clothes searched for their loved ones. Some wailed to God and beat their chests in grief. A water basin used by mosque visitors for ablutions before prayers was stained with blood.

Sermons

The attack came on a day when many clerics throughout the nation were focusing their Friday sermons on apparent sectarian violence that emerged earlier this week in the area around Madaen. Scores of decomposing bodies were discovered in the Tigris River, witnesses had said, evidence of a possible weeks-long ethnic cleansing campaign. Both Shiite and Sunni leaders have seized on the issue to lodge charges and countercharges at each other.

But on Friday many Baghdad clerics urged their flocks to remain calm.

Speaking at the Bratha Mosque, a Shiite house of worship, Sheik Jalaluddin Saghir warned the crowd to ignore the acts of sectarian agitators because to cause further strife would lengthen the U.S.-led coalition's occupation of Iraq.

"There is increasing pressure and efforts trying to separate the people of our country, the Sunni and Shiite, in their aim to start a civil war in Iraq," Saghir said. He said that foreign and native insurgents were trying to incite "sectarian tensions between our people."

Also on Friday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of four Americans. Roadside bombs killed two Marines near Ramadi on Wednesday and a soldier near Tall Afar on Friday, the military reported. On Thursday, another Marine was killed near Al Karmah near Fallujah, but a military spokeswoman did not provide details of the incident.




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