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U.S. Marine Helicopter Crashes in Iraq

January 26, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A U.S. Marine helicopter transporting troops to western Iraq crashed Wednesday in the western desert, the U.S. military said. A U.S. spokesman said there were casualties but gave no figures.

The helicopter went down about 1:20 a.m. near the town of Rutbah, about 220 miles west of Baghdad, while conducting security operations, the military said in a statement. The aircraft was transporting personnel from the 1st Marine Division.

A search and rescue team has reached the site and an investigation into what caused the crash is underway, the military said.

``We can confirm casualties, but not what type or numbers yet,″ a U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, said.

The U.S. military has lost at least 33 helicopters since the March 2003 start of the Iraq conflict, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. At least 20 of them were brought down by hostile fire, the institution said.

The deadliest single incident involving U.S. troops so far took place on Nov. 15, 2003, when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul after colliding while trying to avoid ground fire, killing 17 U.S. soldiers and wounding five.

Earlier that same month, on Nov. 2, 2003, a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile near Fallujah, killing 16 American soldiers and wounding 26.

Last month, a suicide bomb exploded at a mess tent in a base near Mosul, killing 22 people including 14 U.S. soldiers and three American contractors.

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