- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2007

BAGHDAD — A Black Hawk helicopter went down yesterday in northern Iraq, killing all 14 U.S. soldiers aboard, the military said, the deadliest crash since January 2005.

Hours later, a suicide truck bomber struck a police station in the northern oil hub of Beiji, killing at least 45 persons and wounding 80, officials said.

Police and hospital officials said 25 policemen and 20 civilians were killed in Beiji. The officials said 57 civilians and 23 officers were wounded.

The military said initial indications showed the UH-60 helicopter experienced a mechanical problem and was not brought down by hostile fire, but the cause of the crash was under investigation.

It was one of two helicopters on a nighttime operation. The four crew members and 10 passengers who perished were assigned to Task Force Lightning, the military said. It did not release identities pending notification of relatives.

The U.S. military relies heavily on helicopters to avoid the threat of ambushes and roadside bombs, and dozens have crashed in accidents or been shot down.

The deadliest crash occurred on Jan. 26, 2005, when a CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter went down in a sandstorm in western Iraq, killing 31 U.S. troops.

A U.S. soldier also was killed and three others were wounded yesterday during fighting west of Baghdad, the military said separately.

Yesterday’s deaths raised to at least 3,722 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the attack in Beiji bore all the hallmarks of al Qaeda in Iraq, including the use of a suicide bomber and the high number of civilian casualties.

“It appears to be something that is consistent with an al Qaeda-related attack,” he told AP Radio.

Iraqi police and soldiers have frequently been targeted by militants seeking to disrupt U.S.-led efforts to enable the forces to take over their own security so foreign troops can go home.

In late June, a bomb and small-arms attack against a security post shared by police and U.S. paratroopers also killed 13 Iraqi officers in Beiji, about 155 miles north of Baghdad.

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