U.S. probes plane 'hit,' Black Hawk crash

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Teekie

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military is investigating reports of hostile fire on a transport plane in Baghdad as well as probing the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter, which killed all nine soldiers on board.


The huge C-5 plane, carrying 63 people, limped back to Baghdad safely shortly after takeoff after one of its engines exploded.


The U.S. military says it appeared the plane was hit by fire from the ground, but it is not clear what weapon was used.


"Initial reports indicate the incident is the result of hostile action from the ground, but the type of weapon and other details are unknown," the U.S. Air Mobility Command said in a statement. No injuries were reported.


In November, a DHL cargo plane was struck by a shoulder-fired missile, forcing it to make a crash landing with a wing aflame. Last month, a C-17 US transport plane was hit by a missile shortly after take off from Baghdad. An engine exploded, but the plane returned safely with only one of its 16 people aboard slightly injured.


In the earlier incident Thursday, a U.S. UH-60 transport helicopter made an "emergency landing" just south of Fallujah -- a stronghold of the anti-U.S. insurgency -- while on a routine mission, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.


No details of the cause of the crash were given but it was the latest in several fatal chopper crashes in or near Fallujah.


On January 2, a U.S. observation helicopter crashed there, killing one U.S. soldier. In November, a Chinook helicopter was shot down near the city, killing 16 American soldiers.


Also, six soldiers were killed when a Black Hawk was shot down near Tikrit on November 7 and 17 soldiers were killed when two Black Hawks went down near Mosul on November 15.


Tikrit operation


Meanwhile, the U.S. military says 13 Iraqis were arrested during a sweep by more than 300 U.S. troops in overnight raids Thursday in Tikrit.


Those detained were suspected of involvement in attacks on U.S. soldiers -- nine of which were later turned over to Iraqi police.


Searches of houses and shops also yielded bomb-making materials, including wireless door bells often used as triggers to detonate home-made bombs.


Computers and a handful of weapons were also seized, U.S. officials said.


Also Thursday, the U.S. military freed dozens of Iraqis following an amnesty aimed at easing resentment over the detention of thousands of suspected insurgents.


However, officials said the prisoners that were released from the Abu Ghraib jail were not part of the amnesty agreement.


"These are the ones who are routinely released every week," Lt. Col. Roy Shere, spokesman for the 800th Military Police Brigade said. (Full story)


Relatives had gathered outside the prison in western Baghdad, frustrated as they waited into the afternoon for the start of the promised release of some of the thousands of Iraqis held by the Coalition Provisional Authority.


Calling it a time for reconciliation, Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer on Wednesday announced the start of the detainee release program.


"To give impetus to those Iraqis who wish to reconcile with their countrymen, we are announcing today that the coalition will permit hundreds of currently detained Iraqis to return to their homes and to their families," he told reporters in Baghdad.


The program requires low-level prisoners to renounce violence and obtain a sponsor in their communities to vouch for their conduct.


Coalition authority officials told CNN the process would begin Thursday, with about 100 detainees signing declarations and arranging for guarantors before their release -- but it could take some time to process the prisoners before they are allowed to walk free.


Coalition officials said the first detainees released would be the low-level contacts of Iraqi insurgents. In the first week of the program, as many as 500 of the roughly 12,000 prisoners held at facilities across Iraq could be released, CPA officials said.


Special bomb task force


Meanwhile, a new U.S. Army task force is taking aim at the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are used to attack U.S. forces, a senior official said Thursday.


Members already in Iraq are using detection equipment that can jam the radio frequency used to remotely detonate the devices, officials said. They are also examining forensic evidence after attacks to learn about how the bombs are constructed.


In addition, members are looking at new ways to disarm devices, and new tactics for the military to avoid such attacks.


Formed in October, the task force eventually is expected to total up to 300 troops.


Other developments


•*Suspected insurgents launched a mortar strike Wednesday night that killed a U.S. soldier at Logistical Base Seitz, about 12 miles west of central Baghdad, the Coalition Public Information Center said. Thirty soldiers were wounded by the mortar rounds, it said, and two other soldiers were slightly wounded after the attack but not as a direct result of the blast.


•*A British soldier was killed Wednesday on a training range near Basra, the southern Iraqi city under British control, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said. Details were not released. "The incident is under investigation," a British defense spokesman said. The death brings to 56 the number of British soldiers killed in the war in Iraq.


•*A new mass grave site in Iraq has been discovered recently about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Baghdad, U.S. officials said Wednesday. About 800 victims from the Shiite Muslims' 1991 failed uprising against Saddam are believed to be buried at the southern Iraq site. Without the support of coalition forces that had driven Saddam out of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War, the uprising was crushed and thousands killed. U.S. officials said they have identified about 670 mass grave sites across the country.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/01/08/sprj.irq.main/index.html
 
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