Insurgents shoot down U.S. helicopter near Baghdad

Friday, February 2, 2007

An Apache helicopter similar to the one shot down.

A United States Apache military helicopter has been shot down in Baghdad, Iraq says a military spokesman.

Reports say that the chopper went down near the U.S. air base, Taji, located just north of downtown Baghdad.

"I can confirm that we are looking into reports that a helicopter went down north of Baghdad," said Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military.

At least 2 soldiers were on board the aircraft, but their condition is not known.

Witnesses near the scene and police say that at least 2 Apaches were flying together when insurgents began to shoot at the choppers, shooting one of them down and hitting the other, but the helicopter still managed to fly away. The helicopters were believed to have been escorting a U.S. military convoy on the ground when shots were fired.

"I saw smoke coming out of the tail. The chopper was swinging around before it hit the ground one kilometer away from me and I heard a big explosion," said local farmer, Hashim Assafi who also said that he had to find shelter as shots were fired in the direction of the helicopters.

In a statement posted on an Al-Qaeda in Iraq website, insurgents claim responsibility for shooting down the helicopter.

"We say to the enemies of God that the sky of the Islamic state of Iraq is forbidden just like its land," said the statement.

This is the fourth helicopter operated by the U.S. military to crash or be shot down in two weeks.