- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

BAGHDAD — Four U.S. Marines died when a Sea Knight helicopter plunged into a lake in volatile Anbar province, the military said yesterday, raising to 13 the number of American troops killed during a bloody weekend in Iraq.

It was the second military aircraft to go down in a week in Anbar, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, although the military said mechanical problems rather than gunfire had forced the emergency landing on Sunday.

“The pilots maintained control of the aircraft the entire time,” the military said.

A Marine was pulled from the water, but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The bodies of three missing Marines were found in a subsequent search, the military said. Twelve other passengers survived.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, declined to provide details about the twin-rotor CH-46 helicopter’s mission or the reason for its forced landing, saying the incident was under investigation.

The helicopter, from the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, had the ability to land and taxi in the water in case of emergency. It came down in Lake Qadisiyah, a huge reservoir behind the hydroelectric dam at Haditha on the Euphrates River.

The deaths came on a weekend in which nine other U.S. troops were killed, including five in Anbar. The weekend’s violence pushed the number of American troops who have died since the war started in March 2003 to at least 2,901.

A U.S. fighter jet also crashed last week in a field, killing the Air Force pilot.

Iraqi state TV, meanwhile, reported that Iraqi police found a half ton of explosives, including suicide belts and roadside bombs, in Anbar — a province the size of North Carolina that stretches west from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

High numbers of U.S. casualties and a recent spike in violence between Shi’ites and Sunnis have contributed to doubts about the war in the United States.

The violence persisted yesterday, with at least 13 persons killed in attacks nationwide. The victims included Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, a 36-year-old Sunni news editor with the private, independent Dijlah radio station who was fatally shot in his car on his way to work.

Mr. al-Dulaimi’s slaying raised to at least 93 the number of journalists killed in Iraq since the Iraq war began, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

Police also found 56 bodies in Baghdad and the province of Diyala, northeast of the capital. Forty-eight of those were handcuffed, blindfolded and shot before they were dumped in two different areas of the capital — 18 on the Sunni-dominated western bank of the Tigris River and 30 on the eastern side, which is largely Shi’ite.

In northern Baghdad, American forces killed two insurgents and detained six during a raid on buildings where insurgents with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq were making car bombs, the U.S. command said.

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