Skip to main content

Iraqi army helicopter crash kills 8

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Coalition member among casualties, U.S. military says
  • NEW: Earlier reports said 2 aboard; wreckage found around noon
  • NEW: U.S. general: "Pretty clear evidence" Iran backing insurgency
  • Two former officials acquitted of ties to Shiite death squads
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Eight people died in the crash of an Iraqi army helicopter in the northern part of the country, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

There were no survivors. Earlier, security officials had said two people were on the aircraft. The U.S. military said a coalition force member was aboard.

The ministry said the helicopter crashed because of bad weather south of Baiji in Salaheddin province on its way from Baghdad to Tal Afar.

Iraq's Defense Ministry said the Mi-17 was reported missing on Monday. Authorities lost contact with the helicopter around 3 a.m. while it was on a security mission.

The United States and Iraq launched a search for it. The wreckage was found around noon Tuesday.

Meanwhile in the capital, two former Iraqi Health Ministry officials arrested last year in connection with death squad activity have been acquitted, an Iraqi court said Tuesday.

Hakim al-Zamili, who served as a deputy health minister, and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari, who was the head of the ministry's security forces, were charged with facilitating killings and kidnappings of Sunnis from hospitals.

A three-judge panel from the Central Criminal Court of Iraq on Monday found the two not guilty of five counts each of murder and kidnapping and a corruption charge, the court confirmed.

The men were part of the political movement of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

While the acquittal drew swift praise from the country's powerful Sadrist movement, officials from the court and the United States said the trial had flaws.

The Sadrist movement said in a statement it "would like to thank and praise" legal authorities "for dealing independently and honestly" in the case.

However, a court official said the trial was marred by the absence of several prosecution witnesses who failed to show up after reportedly receiving death threats.

Noel Clay, a U.S. Embassy press officer, noted that the judges cited a "lack of direct evidence" in their grounds for acquittal.

"We reserve judgment on the Iraqi court's decision," Clay said.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party led by Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, said witnesses had been intimidated by armed groups after the first day of the two-day trial. The next day, they didn't go back.

"By this aim, these terrorists achieved their purpose and justice vanished," the party said in a statement.

The former No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday there's "pretty clear evidence" that Iran is training, funding and arming insurgents and he urged Iraq's predominantly Shiite neighbor to stop backing surrogate organizations conducting attacks.

"Leave no doubt about it, they are still supporting insurgents," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon in Washington. "When they operate inside of Iraq, we need to keep constant pressure on the surrogate networks they have."

He said "we have pretty clear evidence" Iranian agents are still conducting training. Also, he said, troops are still finding explosively formed penetrators, a powerful type of bomb that originated in Iran.

Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday ordered national and local police to step up efforts to gain the release of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho, who was abducted Friday in Mosul.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressed his sorrow for the abduction and the killings of Rahho's driver and two security guards.

Al-Maliki characterized Iraq's ancient Christian community as an "integral part" of Iraqi society and said "any attack on her children represents an assault on all Iraqis."

Al-Maliki issued a directive to the Iraqi Interior Ministry and police in Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, to urgently follow up and press for Rahho's release.

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. official in Iraq, called the archbishop the "latest in the long line of members of the Christian and other communities in Iraq to be killed or abducted, and displaced from their homes."

"It is appalling that these attacks on communities that have lived peacefully together in north Iraq for centuries are continuing," de Mistura said.

Coalition troops east of Baghdad on Monday killed three insurgents during an operation aimed at disrupting al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

Soldiers were targeting a leader of a "terrorist network" that operates in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala province, the military said in a Tuesday news release.

A military spokesman told CNN that troops did not capture the targeted individual, and they have not determined that he was one of the three killed. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

All About IraqMuqtada al-Sadr

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print