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4 U.S. Marines killed in copter crash in Anbar

A Sea Knight helicopter carrying 16 Marines went down in a lake west of the Iraqi capital in Anbar, killing four of them in the volatile province where an Air Force fighter jet crashed last week, the military said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Sea Knight helicopter carrying 16 Marines went down in a lake west of the Iraqi capital in Anbar, killing four of them in the volatile province where an Air Force fighter jet crashed last week, the military said Monday.

The twin-rotor CH-46 helicopter from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing made the emergency landing Sunday near the shore of Lake Qadisiyah “in which the pilots maintained control of the aircraft the entire time,” the military said.

It said the helicopter had experienced mechanical problems and was not hit by gunfire.

Twelve passengers survived; a Marine was pulled from the water but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The bodies of three missing Marines were found in a subsequent search, the military said.

The Marines died in Anbar — a province the size of North Carolina that stretches west from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — where many of Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgent groups are based. A U.S. fighter jet crashed last week in a field in the region, killing the Air Force pilot.

U.S. death toll: 2,901
At least 13 American service members died over the weekend, including eight in Anbar. The deaths bring to at least 2,901 the number of U.S. personnel killed in the war that started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

U.S. forces recently acknowledged that their stepped-up effort to stop a wave of Sunni-Shiite violence in Baghdad had failed. That was clear on Nov. 23, when a bombing and mortar attack killed 215 people in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City, the deadliest single attack during the Iraq war.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iraq is suffering a civil war that is even deadlier than the sectarian battle that decimated Lebanon in 1975-1990.

On Saturday, a triple car bombing struck a food market in a predominantly Shiite district of Baghdad, killing 68 people, police said.

Drive-by shootings and a suicide car bomber killed at least seven Iraqis and wounded five on Monday. American forces also said they killed two militants and destroyed a vehicle packed with explosives.

“We condemn in the strongest language the recent car bombings, attacks and retribution killings by extremists against peaceful Iraqis in Baghdad,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the top American military commander in Iraq, said Monday in a joint statement.

“We implore all Iraqis not to become pawns of those who seek to destroy you and your country. Do not allow yourself to be drawn down the road of senseless brutality by striking back.”

High-level meetings
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s top Shiite politicians, was scheduled to meet with Bush on Monday in Washington to discuss issues expected to include the failure of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to reduce sectarian violence in cities such as Baghdad.

Over the weekend, al-Hakim and other Iraqi politicians rejected Annan’s proposal for an international conference on Iraq, saying it would be unrealistic to debate the country’s future outside the country.

Bush will meet Thursday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his closest ally in the U.S.-led war. The meeting comes a day after Bush is scheduled to receive recommendations from a blue-ribbon commission exploring different approaches for Iraq.

In Monday’s worst attack, suspected militants killed three government agricultural engineers and their driver in a drive-by shooting as they headed to work Monday morning in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad. A similar attack killed a man and woman driving in a town in the same area. The deaths were reported by police who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their safety.

Journalist slain
In Baghdad, a news editor at an Iraqi radio station that provides news and educational programming, was shot to death on his way to work, said Karim al-Youssif, an assistant manager at the private, independent station that was founded in 2004.

Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaim, a member of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, was married with two young daughters, al-Youssif said, calling his colleague “another victim of the campaign against journalists in this country.”

Al-Dulaim’s slaying raised to at least 93 the number of journalists killed in Iraq since the Iraq war began, according the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. Forty-five other media employees — including drivers, interpreters and guards — also have been killed, all of them Iraqi except for one Lebanese.

In the northwestern city of Mosul, a suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy and wounded five nearby Iraqi civilians, said Dr. Bahaldin al-Barki, who works at the hospital where they were taken. No U.S. casualties were reported.

In northern Baghdad, American forces killed two insurgents and arrested six during a raid on buildings where insurgents with ties to al-Qaida in Iraq were making car bombs, the U.S. command said. A weapons cache including artillery rounds and AK-47s also was found.

Incident at Beiji checkpoint
In northern Iraq, near the refinery city of Beiji, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on protesters who tried to break through a coalition checkpoint Monday, wounding three of them, said Iraqi army Lt. Hassan Mohammed.

The shooting occurred after several hundred protesters marched from Beiji to the checkpoint in nearby Siniyah village where a convoy of trucks carrying food apparently had been stopped. As a U.S. military helicopter circled overhead, shots rang out and the demonstrators ran away.

On Sunday, two Iraqi boys, ages 10 and 15, were wounded in an attack on coalition forces during which insurgents fired a rifle grenade in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. The coalition forces, who suffered no casualties, detained two Iraqis believed to have been involved in the attack.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. aired Monday, Annan said the level of violence in Iraq was much worse than that of other recent civil wars. He also agreed that the average Iraqi’s life is worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“Given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness, and the way that forces are arranged against each other, a few years ago when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse,” Annan said, according to a transcript of the interview.