A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter went down in northern Iraq, killing all 12 Americans believed to be aboard in the deadliest crash in nearly a year, while five U.S. Marines died in weekend attacks, the military said Sunday.
The U.S. confirmed only that the 12 dead were U.S. citizens, not necessarily all military. There were four crew members and eight passengers. The helicopters often carry private contractors and journalists.
The latest deaths followed an especially bloody week in which about 200 Iraqis and a dozen U.S. troops were killed. Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, claimed headway in forming a stable coalition government following the Dec. 15 elections, whose final results may be released this week.
U.S. military officials said the UH-60 Black Hawk crashed just before midnight Saturday about seven miles east of Tal Afar, a northern city near the Syrian border that has seen heavy fighting with insurgents.
“All (those killed) are believed to be U.S. citizens,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said.
He did not say what caused the crash, but bad weather has wracked most of Iraq.
The Black Hawk was part of a two-helicopter team providing support for the 101st Airborne Division and was flying between bases when communications were lost, the military said. After a search, the helicopter was found about noon Sunday, the military said.
The helicopter was part of Task Force Band of Brothers and attached to the 101st Aviation Brigade, but Maj. Tom Bryant, spokesman for the division’s 3rd Brigade, said the helicopter was not from Fort Campbell, Ky., and belonged to another unit.
Bryant could not say what unit the helicopter belonged to or whether any soldiers from the 101st were aboard. Master Sgt. Terry Webster of division public affairs could not identify what unit operated the helicopter.
It was the deadliest helicopter crash in Iraq since a CH-53 Sea Stallion went down in bad weather in western Iraq on Jan. 26, 2005, killing 31 U.S. service members.
In Saturday’s crash, records indicated that eight passengers and four crew members were aboard.
Three Marines were killed Sunday by small arms attacks in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. Two other Marines were killed Saturday by roadside bombs in separate incidents, the military said.
With the latest Marine deaths, at least 2,199 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. That toll did not include those killed aboard the Black Hawk.