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Two U.S. Helicopters Crash in North Iraq

November 15, 2003

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) _ Two U.S. Black Hawks crashed Saturday evening in this northern Iraqi city, killing 12 coalition soldiers and injuring at least nine, the military said. Witnesses said the two aircraft collided in midair.

A U.S. soldier at the scene said he heard one of the helicopters was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade before it crashed. But a military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such reports were ``at best speculative″ and added that coalition forces had no reports that a helicopter was shot down.

Witnesses said the helicopters crashed about 6:30 p.m. in Borsa, a residential neighborhood in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city.

Nafe Younis said he was sitting on the roof of his house when he saw the rotor blades of the two helicopters hit each other.

One of the helicopters then ``hit into the house and a few minutes later it went ablaze,″ said Younis, who lives across the street from where one of the helicopters crashed.

The U.S. military said it had no reports that a helicopter was shot down and did not give a cause for the crash, which occurred about 6:30 p.m., about an hour after sundown.

The Black Hawk can have a crew of four and carry about a dozen passengers. The two that crashed Saturday belonged to the 101st Airborne Division, which controls northern Iraq.

The scene of the crash was cordoned off and reporters were not allowed close to the site.

In the darkness, the silhouette of one helicopter was visible, perched on top of a two-story building.

Mahasen Ali, who lives in that building, said she heard two explosions as the building was rocked.

``We were sitting and suddenly we heard a boom,″ she said. ``The neighbors were yelling, ’Get out, get out.‴

Ali, a young mother, left the building without even waiting to put on her shoes and sought safety in a neighbor’s house. From there she saw smoke rising from the helicopter and one soldier pulling another away from the wreckage.

The crashes raise to four the number of helicopters that have gone down this month.

Sixteen U.S. service members were killed on Nov. 2 when a Chinook helicopter carrying dozens of soldiers on leave was apparently downed by insurgents near the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad.

A Black Hawk helicopter was shot down on Nov. 7 near the central town of Tikrit, killing all six soldiers aboard.

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