NICOSIA Ñ The U.S. military is conducting an urgent search for surface-to-air missiles after determining that insurgents aligned with Al Qaida have received special training in destroying American helicopters.
Sunni insurgents have succeeded in employing a range of
ground-based weapons including the Soviet-origin SA-7 surface-to-air missile and the rocket-propelled grenade.
On Nov. 2, an SA-7 missile shot down a U.S. CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter
near Faluja. Sixteen American soldiers were killed and 26 were injured.
Over the weekend, officials said U.S. troops captured seven SAM-7 missiles in Mosul. So far,
insurgents have destroyed two U.S. helicopters within a week, Middle East Newsline reported.
The insurgents were said to have been trained to use the weapons to destroy
low-flying helicopters in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad. Officials said the insurgents have formed squads near such cities as
Faluja and Tikrit to track and target low-flying U.S. helicopters.
On Friday, Saddam gunners used an RPG to destroy a UH-60 Black Hawk
helicopter near Tikrit. All six soldiers aboard Ñ from the U.S. Army's
101st Airborne Division Ñ were killed.
"They were in a Blackhawk helicopter transporting personnel from Mosul
to Tikrit on a routine flight," Maj. Josselyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the
army's 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, said.
The following day, U.S. F-16 warplanes struck suspected insurgency
hideouts in Tikrit. It was the first U.S. bombing raid in Iraq since the end
major combat was declared in May.
Officials said Sunni insurgents have been training with a range of
weapons to shoot down U.S. military helicopters. They said the weapons have
managed to overcome helicopter counter-measures systems meant to deflect any
The Sunni campaign against U.S. helicopters began in late October. On
Oct. 25, Sunni gunners struck a Black Hawk with an RPG outside Tikrit.