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Grisly video of U.S. pilot is real, officials say

/ Source: NBC News and news services

Military analysts have authenticated the terrorist videotape released this week that militants said showed the burning wreckage of an Apache helicopter and the body of a U.S. Army pilot being dragged, U.S. military officials have told NBC News.

The Apache helicopter was shot down last weekend 10 miles southwest of Baghdad, killing both pilots. U.S. military officials report that only partial remains of the pilots were recovered from the crash site.

The video was posted on the Internet Wednesday in the name of the Mujahadeen Shura Council, a recently formed Islamic terrorist group with ties to Al-Qaida in Iraq and its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Parts of the video were blurry, and the face of the man being dragged was not shown.

But the burning helicopter could be seen clearly. It showed the outlines of its destroyed blades and blood on various jagged pieces of wreckage spread over a field. It was not possible, however, to see if it had U.S. markings.

The video also clearly showed the bloodied, burning body of a man being dragged by other men through a field. Before the body was moved, the camera zoomed in on what appeared to be his waistline, which showed a scrap of underwear with the brand name “Hanes” on it. The man also appeared to be wearing camouflage fatigues, but his clothes were too tattered to say at first whether he was wearing an American military uniform.

The AH-64D Apache Longbow crashed about 5:30 p.m. Saturday apparently under hostile fire west of Youssifiyah, about 10 miles southwest of Baghdad, while conducting a combat air patrol.

In the video, the Shura Council of Mujahedeen said its military wing shot down the aircraft on Saturday.

On Sunday, the military said the pilots were “presumed dead” and that recovery efforts were under way, indicating they had not fully secured the site or retrieved the bodies. The military later identified the pilots killed as Capt. Timothy J. Moshier, 25, of Albany, N.Y., and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael L. Hartwick of Orrick, Mo.

According to statements on Islamist Web sites, the Mujahedeen Shura Council was organized in January to consolidate al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups. The move was seen as a bid by insurgents to lower the profile of al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, whose mass attacks against Shiite civilians have tarnished the image of the insurgents among many Iraqis.