US soldiers killed in Iraq copter crash

Two American soldiers were killed when a US military reconnaissance helicopter crashed in northern Iraq on Friday, a military spokesman said.

    Several US helicopters have crashed in recent weeks

    The OH-58 Kiowa chopper, attached to the 101st Airborne

    Division, went down at 1730 GMT northwest of the city of

    Kayyarah, killing the two crew on board.

    The cause of the crash was not immediately known but an

    accompanying helicopter did not report "hostile activities", the spokesman

    added.

    It was the fourth such crash since the beginning of January.

    A US AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed on 13 January, after a

    suspected downing by resistance fighters in the restive western district of

    Fallujah.

    Nine US soldiers were killed when a Black Hawk helicopter was

    hit by fire near Fallujah on 8 January.

    And one soldier died

    and another was wounded when ground fire struck a Kiowa on 2 January

    .

    Ansar al-Islam

    Ansar al-Islam are accused of
    having ties to al-Qaida

    Meanwile, US Special Forces troops

    have captured a leading figure in Ansar al-Islam, an anti-American guerrilla

    group operating in Iraq, a US official said on Friday.

    The US government says Ansar has ties

    to the al-Qaida network, although this remains unproven. 

    Husam al-Yameni was taken into custody during an operation

    last week near the town of Fallujah, 50km west of

    Baghdad, said the official

    .

    "There's a strong possibility that this guy was involved in

    some of the major attacks in Iraq," he said.

    The official described al-Yemeni as a top associate of Abu

    Musab Zarqawi - who is suspected of plotting the murder of a

    US diplomat in Jordan, overseeing a training camp in

    Afghanistan, and having links to al-Qaida.

    The United States

    last year offered a reward of up to $5 million for information

    leading to the arrest or conviction of Zarqawi.

    The US official said al-Yemeni was the highest ranking

    member of Ansar al-Islam captured to date.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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