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CNN: THE SITUATION ROOM January 16, 2006

Apache Chopper Down

(...)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, it's coming up on 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, a trail of smoke causes a trail of suspicion. What caused the downing of a U.S. Apache helicopter in Iraq today that killed two U.S. soldiers? There's no official explanation yet, but one group says it's responsible.

The Iranian nuclear standoff heats up. Britain, France and Germany say they'll call for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Meanwhile, Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Could a U.S. military attack be an option?

And fighting the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a dominant strain of flu this season is stronger than two widely-prescribed drugs.

Are you at risk? We're investigating this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

For the third time in 10 days, U.S. troops have been killed in the crash of a helicopter in Iraq. And like a similar incident last week, it appears today's crash was the result of hostile fire.

Let's get details from our CNN senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, what do we know?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this incident is still under investigation, but we do know that two U.S. Army pilots were killed and they may have been shot down.

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MCINTYRE (voice over): A video posted on an Islamist Web site claimed to show the U.S. helicopter gun ship blasted out of the sky by a shoulder-fired missile. But the U.S. military dismissed the video as likely insurgent propaganda, saying it appeared to be shot at the wrong time of day and was also inconsistent with other known facts about the crash. A Pentagon official said at least one witness thought a rocket-propelled grenade, not a missile, hit the helicopter. The U.S. military is confirming that the two-person Apache attack helicopter went down in a swamp while patrolling an area north of Baghdad known for terrorist activity and that both pilots from the Army's Task Force Ironhorse were killed. It's the third-deadly crash in 10 days, which is about half the total number of Army helicopters lost in an average year in Iraq.

But experts say considering Army helicopters have logged nearly a million flight hours in grueling combat conditions, it's a wonder more haven't crashed or been shot down.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: If you think about the bad weather that they're flying in, if you think about how many shoulder- fired missiles that may be over there, you'd say overall over the last several years the record's been really quite good.

MCINTYRE: Since the war began, at least 18 U.S. military helicopters have gone down either by accident or hostile fire in Iraq. Friday, a Kiowa warrior reconnaissance helicopter was shot down near Mosul, killing the two Army pilots.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And Wolf, now U.S. commanders are worried about another threat. According to the industry publication "Defense News," commanders are worried about a new version of the improvised explosive device that can be rigged to pop up from the ground and explode as a low-flying helicopter flies over.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie. Thank you very much.

More disturbing news from Iraq.

Thank you.

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