BAGHDAD, Iraq March 24 —
Iraq claimed Monday that it shot down two Apache helicopters and
was holding the pilots prisoner. U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks said
two pilots were missing in action.
Iraqi state television showed pictures of one helicopter in a
grassy field. Men in Arab headdresses holding Kalashnikovs automatic
rifles danced around the aircraft.
"A small number of peasants shot down two Apaches," Information
Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said. "Perhaps we will show
pictures of the pilots."
"I know with some precision how many helicopters were shot down
and ... those events did not occur as a result of farmers," Franks
Iraqi state television also showed pictures of two helmets
apparently belonging to members of the helicopter's crew, as well as
documents and other papers lying on the ground.
During a briefing at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar on Monday, Franks
acknowledged that one helicopter did not return from its mission in
"We have a two-man crew missing," he said, adding that their fate
Earlier, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Grant Windsor at the Pentagon
in Washington confirmed that one Apache was missing but said he had
no information on the pilots. He said the U.S. Defense Department
was evaluating the tape shown on Iraqi TV.
At Camp As Sayliyah, a U.S. Central Command official said the
Apache shown on Iraqi television was assigned to the U.S. Army 101st
Airborne Division and was forced down late Sunday because of heavy
Another Apache and a UH-160 tried to rescue the crew but were
driven off by ground fire, the official said on condition of
Al-Sahhaf said the Iraqi government would consider displaying the
other helicopter the military claimed to have shot down.
The report of the downed helicopters and new prisoners of war
came only one day after the Qatar-based satellite TV station
Al-Jazeera showed video images of five American prisoners of war
captured in fighting near the southern Iraqi city of An
"Yesterday was a black day and the black days will increase,"
Even so, Al-Sahhaf said the POWs would be treated according to
the Geneva Conventions. He rejected accusations that Iraq had
violated such accords by allowing Iraqi television to film them and
Referring to televised video images of Iraqi prisoners of war,
Al-Sahhaf claimed the men were actually civilians taken away at
gunpoint by U.S. forces.
"Is no one supposed to tell them they acted inappropriately?" he
asked. "These hypocrites! We tell them we abide by Geneva
He accused allied forces of "crying tears of crocodiles" for
attacking Iraq and finding the consequences unpleasant.
|An Iraqi TV reporter, right, and
others stand in front of what Iraqi officials say is a U.S.
Apache Longbow attack helicopter, shown in this image from
video released on Iraqi TV, Monday March 24, 2003. The
helicopter is reportedly in a field near Karbala, Iraq, 50
miles south of Baghdad. At the Pentagon, Air Force Master Sgt.
Grant Windsor confirmed that one Apache was missing. He could
give no details on the incident and said he had no information
on the status of the pilots. (AP Photo/Iraqi TV via
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