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Iraq Transition

Video 'shows UK plane crash'

Islamic militant group says it shot down plane

A militant group claimed to have shot down the C-130 (File photo).
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Militant group Ansar al-Islam claims responsibility for the crash of a British C-130.

Military expert says at least nine British troops have died in the crash of a C-130 plane in Iraq.
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(CNN) -- U.S. and British investigators in Iraq are seeking the cause of Sunday's crash of a Royal Air Force C-130 transport plane as a video surfaced of what appeared to be the aircraft's wreckage.

Nine RAF service members and a soldier were missing and presumed dead after the crash, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said in a written statement on Monday.

Among the dead was Australian-born Flight-Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, 35, a father of three, who was the navigator of the downed aircraft.

Pardoel had dual Australian-British nationality and had been living in England for three years with his wife Kellie and their children.

The former Royal Australian Air Force officer is Australia's first military casualty of the Iraq war.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has expressed his sympathies to Pardoel's family and to all the families of the British servicemen killed.

Defense Secretary Hoon, meanwhile, acknowledged reports that the Hercules plane may have been shot down, but added that "we are not in a position to come to any conclusions until the investigation is complete."

The militant group Ansar al-Islam posted a statement on a Web site claiming responsibility for the crash. The group said its fighters tracked the aircraft and "fired an anti-tank missile" at it before downing the plane.

Later a video in which the logo of another known group, the Islamic National Resistance, 20th Revolution Brigades, appears in the corner of the screen, was aired on the Arab-language network Al-Jazeera, which did not say where it obtained the tape.

Neither the claim of responsibility nor the video has been authenticated.

The video shows two missiles streaking into the sky followed by a fireball on the ground. After that segment, the video shows close-up views of wreckage on the ground, some burning, of what appears to be a C-130.

The final shot shows heavy black smoke in the distance, apparently shot from a moving vehicle.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Don Shepherd, a CNN military analyst, said that pieces of the wreckage appeared to be from a C-130, but that the missile firing appeared suspect.

Shepherd pointed out that both missiles rocket smoothly through the air, which would require a radar-locking system that would be difficult to transport and set up. The alternative, a heat-seaking missile, would cork-screw through the sky toward a target.

In Washington, military officials told CNN they did not know the official cause of the crash. But neither are they ruling out enemy fire. Military sources told CNN that military personnel reported seeing a fireball in the sky before the crash.

U.S. military officials said widespread wreckage was visible at the crash site, about 25 miles north of Baghdad near Balad. Hoon said the plane had been on a flight from Baghdad International Airport to the airbase at Balad.

Hoon said that British and U.S. forces "are recovering the bodies, and attempting to ascertain the cause of the crash."

The plane went down at about 5:25 p.m. Sunday, nearly a half hour after polls closed on Iraq's first free elections in a half century.

"The deaths of these servicemen are especially poignant on a day when Iraqis were able to enjoy the freedom of democratic elections for the first time in many years," Hoon said.

It was the worst single loss of life for British forces since the war began. Seventy-six Britons had died in Iraq before the crash.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the service of British forces, saying they were "doing an extraordinary job on behalf of their country."

He added: "Yet again today, we see the sacrifice that they made. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives earlier today. They can be so proud of what their loved ones accomplished. This country and the wider world will never forget them."

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