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Iraq: 15 U.S. Soldiers Die In Helicopter Crash

Baghdad, 2 November 2003 (RFE/RL)-- The U.S. military says 15 U.S. soldiers were killed and 21 injured in Iraq today in a helicopter crash thought to have been caused by a missile attack. A U.S. military spokesman, Colonel William Darley, reported the casualty count but said the cause of the crash near the city of Al-Fallujah was under investigation.

"As a result of the crash, there were 15 killed in action and 21 wounded. All of the wounded have been evacuated to medical facilities," Darley said.

U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld earlier said the helicopter may have been brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

The soldiers on board were en route to Baghdad, and were set to leave Iraq for a two-week break from their duties. The attack represents the heaviest death toll for U.S.-led coalition forces in a single attack since the overthrow of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his regime on 9 April.

In a separate incident in Baghdad today, a bomb blast hit a military convoy, fatally wounding a U.S. soldier.

In comments on U.S. television, Rumsfeld said it is "a tragic day" for the United States. But he said recent attacks in Iraq will not keep the U.S.-led coalition from continuing its campaign against terrorism.