The New York Times reported January 24th that a helicopter used by a civilian security contractor crashed in Baghdad January 23rd after coming under fire while providing protection for an American convoy.
In total, the report says, five members of the security firm that owns the helicopter were killed, including the four-man crew in the aircraft and a gunner in another helicopter who was hit by gunfire. The Times says the crash of the helicopter sparked “…a chaotic five-hour battle in which American attack helicopters crisscrossed the skies over Baghdad and fired at least one Hellfire missile into the streets below.”
The Times reported that it was unclear whether the helicopter crashed because of gunfire, or because it got tangled in electrical wires. Citing an American military official, the Times said that at least four of the victims had been shot in the head, raising the possibility that they had been killed while on the ground.
After the crash, the report stated, American military forces went to the wreckage to retrieve the bodies and provide security around the crash site. According to the Times, the contractors, who worked for the private security firm Blackwater, were providing aerial protection for an official convoy traveling through Baghdad. The report stated that Blackwater is contracted by the U.S. government to provide security for officials traveling outside of the Green Zone.
In a statement by Blackwater, quoted in the Times report, the company said its members “were killed while working on behalf of the United States government.” A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Lou Fintor, declined to comment, according to the Times.
The report described the events as follows: “The attack was carried out as the helicopters swooped low over the Fadhil neighborhood, an ancient warren of narrow, twisting streets that is home predominantly to Sunni Arabs and has been the site of numerous battles with insurgents in recent months. The crash took place near the Shorja market in central Baghdad.”
The report went on: “On the ground, fierce gun battles lasting several hours could be heard from blocks away. American Apache helicopters took to the sky soon after the attack and could be seen sweeping over the area, making sharp loops over the eastern banks of the Tigris River and then flying low over the neighborhoods.”
Information for this article was obtained from “Five American Security Employees Killed in Baghdad Helicopter Attack,” by Marc Santora and James Glanz, published January 24, 2007 in the New York Times.