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article imageAmericans shot dead after helicopter crash

By Carolyn E. Price     Jan 24, 2007 in World
Four of the five Americans killed on Tuesday were shot, execution style
US and Iraqi officials are reporting that four of the five Americans who were killed on Tuesday when a U.S. security company's helicopter crashedwere shot execution style in the back of the head. The helicopter is reported to have crashed in a dangerous Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad.
The helicopter was shot down while it was heading toward a U.S. Embassy ground convoy that had come under fire in a Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad. The US ground convoy had called for assistance, said a U.S. diplomatic official in Washington.
A second helicopter also was hit, but there were no casualties among its crew. However, the doomed helicopter swooped into electrical wires before the crash. US officials are not sure if gunfire brought the aircraft down or if the pilot veered into the wires during an evasive maneuver.
The helicopter was owned by by Blackwater USA. Two Sunni insurgent groups have separately claimed responsibility for the crash.
In Washington, a U.S. defense official said four of the five killed were shot in the back of the head but did not know whether they were still alive when they were shot. The defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
In the aftermath of the crash, US forces were preparing to blow up the wreckage to prevent people from scavenging equipment from it. Blackwater USA confirmed that five of their American employees were killed, but provided no identities or other details. The men were employed by the North Carolina-based company as security professionals.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad offered condolences for the five Americans killed. "We lost five fine men," Khalilzad told reporters during a round-table discussion at the embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.
What a terrible development.
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