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U.S. troops killed in copter crash

Thu., Sept. 18, 2008

Hostile fire not suspected; bombs rip Baghdad

BAGHDAD – For the second time in three days, twin bombs tore through a busy Baghdad street, killing at least eight people Wednesday and harking back to a terrorist tactic used when sectarian violence was at its height.

In southern Iraq, seven U.S. troops died when their helicopter crashed early today outside Basra.

A U.S. military spokesman said no hostile fire was suspected in the crash of the CH-47 Chinook, which went down about 12:01 a.m. It was part of an aerial convoy from Kuwait to Balad, north of Baghdad, a military statement said. The last time the U.S. lost seven troops in a day was five months ago, on April 16.

Separately, the U.S. military announced that two soldiers died Wednesday of non-combat causes. At least 4,168 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since March 2003.

Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said agreement was not imminent in negotiations between the Iraqi and U.S. governments over the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. The deadline for reaching an agreement is Dec. 31, when the U.N. mandate governing the U.S. presence here expires.

Al-Maliki, speaking at a meeting of satellite TV executives, said the U.N. Security Council would have to extend its mandate if an accord was not reached. But he warned that an extension was far from guaranteed, given Russia’s sour relations with the U.S.

This would leave “the Americans in a critical stage without a legal cover” to be in Iraq, al-Maliki said. “We hope there will be flexibility from the American side, because the Iraqi side demonstrated flexibility.”

His comments and the day’s violence were particularly biting after weeks of relative quiet and assurances from Iraqi and U.S. officials that differences could be smoothed out.

Police said the bombs went off five minutes apart in west Baghdad’s Harthiya neighborhood, along a street lined with currency-exchange houses and a private hospital. They put the number of wounded at 20.

On Monday, two bombs went off minutes apart in east Baghdad, killing at least 13 people. In both cases, the bombs were placed in separate cars, parked on the street.


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